From Africa's Palms. People & Power investigates the environmental consequences of palm oil plantations in equatorial Africa.

Cameroon's southwest region is ripe for development; it has oil, minerals and fertile land. It is called "Africa in miniature" because the range of climates and soil means that just about anything can be grown here.
In 2010, the Cameroonian government struck the outlines of a deal with a US-based enterprise called Herakles Farms, granting it exclusive use of a biodiversity hotspot in south-western Cameroon - an area covering 73,000 hectares of pristine forest and farmland - in which to start plantations. The company would benefit from some eye-wateringly generous tax breaks, but in return it promised to bring much needed development to the region - from jobs and schools, to hospitals and better roads.
Palm oil, the very crop Herakles Farms wants to grow on a massive scale, has been here for generations. It has sustained small-time farmers and provided a source of work and income in communities that have long had to fend for themselves. These farmers, known as "smallholders", have faithfully cultivated the local palm oil industry with few resources and little government assistance. They have been intimately involved with the history and tradition of a crop that originated in Africa long before Herakles Farms happened to discover it and its potential for massive profits.

Mise en ligne : 09 mars 2015 | Mise à jour : 09 mars 2015 | Auteur : Eric Léonard