Targeted by foreigners
According to a report from a Cameroonian NGO, the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), Cameroon is being targeted by foreign agro-industrial companies. These companies own large areas of land, abuse workers and use chemicals that are dangerous for people and the environment.
The report points out that Sustainable Oils Cameroon, a palm oil production company 100 percent owned by the American company Herakles Farms, has obtained a 99-year lease on 73,086 hectares in the south west of the country at between 250 and 500 CFA (between 0.38 and 0.76 euros) per hectare per year. According to the report, 25,000 people will have to leave. It is unclear whether those people will be compensated.
A farmer in eastern Cameroon has challenged a government ruling forcing him to cede his land to Chinese rice farmers. The West African country has adopted a land redistribution policy that favours Chinese investors above its own citizens.
By Mohamadou Houmfa, Yaoundé
In Akak, in eastern Cameroon, the future of a family is at stake. Fa’a Embolo Joseph, a 59-year-old father of nine, might lose his 10,000 hectares of land to Chinese rice farmers. Since 2009, the Cameroonian government has been giving Chinese investors preferential treatment in land distribution matters.
“My children are very worried. They know I am fighting for their future. If I don’t do that, they might not inherit their ancestral land,” says Joseph, who is determined to oppose the government’s decision.
Three years ago Joseph was summoned to the village chief’s office and was told to hand his land over to new Chinese owners, he says. “A couple of days later some people came to mark off the land. Then I shut off access to my land with three tree-trunks.”
On February 14th, Joseph was sentenced to a one year jail term for “rebellion”. He decided to appeal, costing him 95,000 CFA (145 euros). It was not the first time he was penalized. Last year he served a four-month prison sentence for blocking the authorities - and the Chinese – from accessing to his land.
Joseph says people in rural areas are often abused because they’re ignorant. “In the villages, it often happens that the authorities try to cheat the population, the majority of whom haven’t been to school.”
He is angry that the authorities don’t seem to care about his worries. “We still don’t know if we will be compensated for the land loss and, if so, how much money we will receive. This land is very important to us. Our ancestors are buried here, and the forest feeds us with termites, worms and other produce.”