SOCAPALM conflicts, Cameroon

One of the most (in)famous cases of high-profile slapp suits against journalists daring to explain social and environmental injustices in rubber and palm oil plantations and other business in the 'Françafrique'.


Description

The SOCAPALM plantations have been a source of massive socio-ecological problems and resistance. The plantations (then state-run) were established in 1968 on confiscated land customarily belonging to Bagyeli and Bantu populations. In 2000, the plantations were privatized and they belong today to the Luxembourgian holding Socfin which is linked to the Bolloré group, a massive French conglomerate led by Vincent Bolloré. The Bolloré group is one of the key players of 'Françafrique'.

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Basic Data
NameSOCAPALM conflicts, Cameroon
CountryCameroon
ProvinceProvinces of Littoral and South
Site6 sites: Dibombari, Mbongo, Mbambou, Eséka, Edéa and Kienké
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Agro-toxics
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific CommoditiesRubber
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe SOCAPALM (Société Camerounaise de Palmeraies) is an agro-industrial company operating in Cameroon. It is the largest palm oil company in the country, managing plantations on some 78,529 hectares in Mbongo, Dibombari, Mbambou, Edéa, Kienke and Eséka, 32,901 hectares directly exploited and about 20,000 hectares indirectly exploited via family plantations.

A few figures:

- Socapalm’s turnover amounted to over 72 million euros in 2016

- Creation: 1968 – privatization: 2000

- 6 sites: Dibombari, Mbongo, Mbambou, Eséka, Edéa and Kienké

- 6 palm oil mills (all certified ISO 14001)

- Production: 95 644 tons of crude palm oil per year (2016)

- Surface area of oil palm plantations: 32 901 ha

- Surface area of rubber tree plantations: 2 079 ha

- Staff: 3,200 employees + 2,338 outgrowers who themselves have about 3,000 agricultural workers. In total, then, nearly 30,000 people are linked to the SOCAPALM.

Website: http://socapalm.com/?lang=en
Project Area (in hectares)80,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesSocfin group (La Société Financière des Caoutchoucs) (Socfin) from Luxembourg - The Socfin group owns the SOCAPALM plantations
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters- SYNAPARCAM (Synergie Nationale des Paysans et Riverains du Cameroun): http://www.palmespoir.org/index.php/synaparcam

- FOCARFE (Fondation Camerounaise d'Actions rationalisées et de Formation sur l'Environnement): http://www.aedev.org/focarfe/

- ActionAid France: http://www.peuples-solidaires.org/

- Attac France: https://france.attac.org/

- Bastamag: https://www.bastamag.net/

- GRAIN: https://www.grain.org/

- Greenpeace France: https://www.greenpeace.fr/

- Mediapart: https://www.mediapart.fr/

- Ritimo: https://www.ritimo.org/

- Sherpa: https://www.asso-sherpa.org/home

- Survie: https://survie.org/

- ReAct: https://www.reactgroup.org/

- Reporters sans frontières: https://rsf.org/en
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Property damage/arson
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Corruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Repression
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesNeighboring populations have essentially two basic demands: (1) a compensation in any form - monetary, village plantations or infrastructure (roads, schools, etc.) - for the destruction of what they regard as their forest; and (2) the non-extension of the SOCAPALM, i.e. the preservation of the remaining fields, agro-forests and forests. It is basically for these goals that local Bantu villagers ask for their presence in the management board of the company.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The company claims to have recently improved the social and environmental situation but local people continue to protest (as of 2018)
Sources and Materials
References

"Résistances contre deux géants industriels en forêt tropicale" (2008): Overview of the situation, published by the WRM (only in French)
[click to view]

"Cameroon: Refuting ten lies about SOCAPALM plantations" (2010): Replies to typical arguments in favor of the SOCAPALM (only in French)
[click to view]

"L’impact de la privatisation de la SOCAPALM sur les communautés et l’environnement au Cameroun: Exposé de situation" (2010): Overview of the situation, with the participation of local and national NGOs (only in French)
[click to view]

Links

"We will not be silenced by Bolloré's SLAPP lawsuits!" (25 January 2018): Useful list of all the Bolloré lawsuits against journalists and NGOs
[click to view]

Huffpost 24 April 2018. Vincent Bolloré en garde à vue pour des soupçons de corruption en Afrique.
[click to view]

“Bolloré y sus practicas mafiosas en África, ¿habrá justicia?”. Chema Caballero. Mundo Negro, 4 mayo 2018. Vicent Bolloré fue detenido por la policía francesa y trasladado a las instalaciones de la fiscalía nacional el 24 de abril 2018, acusado de sobornos a funcionarios públicos extranjeros.
[click to view]

GRAIN (a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements, based in Barcelona) . We will not be silenced by Bolloré's SLAPP lawsuits! Civil society organisations, media outlets, journalists and NGOs | 25 enero 2018
[click to view]

Media Links

"Il a témoigné contre Bolloré: 'Bien sûr que je suis inquiet'" (5 April 2018): Interview of a local EJO activist (only in French)
[click to view]

"Procès Bolloré, 2e round : le 'Germinal des tropiques'" (4 April 2018): Useful overview article (only in French)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Some maps of the SOCAPALM
[click to view]

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"Bolloré au Cameroun, un bilan en images" by photographer Isabelle Alexandra Ricq - a series of photographs of the SOCAPALM-Kienké published in 2009 by Le Monde Diplomatique: https://blog.mondediplo.net/2009-06-16-Bollore-au-Cameroun-un-bilan-en-images (All the pictures here are taken from this blog)
[click to view]

Other CommentsMany sources are available. This is only a few landmark publications.
Meta Information
ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update10/08/2018
Comments