Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), local communities, and Indigenous people groups in the Congo Basin have convened to address the emerging challenges of palm oil development in the region. Hosted by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in Douala, Cameroon, meetings were held from December 2-4, 2014 attended by nearly 40 civil society experts and community leaders from over 25 organizations. Insightful presentations were made, and strategic reflections and discussions took place in order to address communities' challenges related to palm oil expansion in the region.
Currently, the majority of palm oil used globally is grown on plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. But massive global demand, coupled with increasing land scarcity in Southeast Asia, is leading to development of palm oil plantations in the Congo Basin, with vast swaths of land covering hundreds of thousands of hectares of primary rain forest currently allocated for palm oil cultivation. For centuries, local and indigenous communities rely on their customary forests in the Congo Basin for their daily subsistence needs: food, medicines, fuel, traditional rituals, housing, etc. Extreme environmental degradation, land-grabbing, and human rights abuses have plagued many existing and/or now emerging palm oil projects and represent glaring new threats to the region.
Participants at the workshop, civil society and indigenous peoples groups from Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo, agreed to a "joint position" on the expansion of palm oil in the region, including recommendations to the Congo Basin governments.
Among these recommendations, they urge governments:
To commit to no conversion of primary forests and high conservation value areas, as well as to limit the conversion of natural forests for oil palm plantations to the highest extent possible,
To increase transparency in the palm oil sector to allow effective participation of CSOs and local communities when negotiating palm oil contracts, and
To recognize and secure community land tenure rights, as well as to fully respect community rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) when allocating lands for palm oil plantations.
To read the joint position in French and English click here