Will Cameroon bear the brunt of Herakles’ implosion?

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Oakland Institute| 18 September 2013

Will Cameroon bear the brunt of Herakles’ implosion?

For Immediate Release
              
Contact: Anuradha Mittal, +1 510 469 5228, [email protected]

The embattled Herakles Farms palm oil plantation project in Cameroon appears to have now gone off the rails. Recent news of CEO Bruce Wrobel’s early retirement from parent company Sithe Global, plus charges of corruption filed in the US by Cameroonian NGOs and the virtual disappearance of All for Africa, an NGO (chaired by Bruce Wrobel) that granted a faux “green” legitimacy, combine to indicate that failure is at hand for the maligned project.
The word on the ground points to a dire financial situation and an erosion of faith in Herakles Farms by investors and company’s own workers. Herakles Farms had purported to herald a new era of “sustainable agriculture” by replacing old-growth rainforest with palm oil plantations. But the company has faced a series of setbacks since the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International released a report in May 2013 documenting false promises, risks, and legal flaws in Herakles’ planned operations.
Since the report’s release, we have seen the following developments:
  • On June 18, 2013, Reuters reported a Cameroonian senior official stating, “We have asked them to forget their original deal signed with MINEPAT.” The Herakles Farms project is being renegotiated with theplantation’s surface area reduced from 73,000 to 20,000 hectares.
  • On June 13, 2013, two Cameroonian NGOs filed a complaint in the United States via OECD against Herakles Farms for corruption.
  • Senior staff have left the company, including the Project Director and Senior Vice President for Agriculture.
  • Herakles Farms is now harvesting logs from its project area rather than developing a palm oil plantation.
  • On September 12, 2013, Greenpeace released evidence that Herakles Farms has been logging illegally even after the suspension of their activities in May 2013.
  • Ongoing dispute with former staff members and a subcontractor over the non-payment of salaries and fees.
  • On July 30, 2013, Sithe Global announced that its CEO, Bruce Wrobel, who is also the CEO of Herakles Farms, was retiring from the company for unspecified reasons. Sithe Global, Herakles Farms, and All for Africa share the same New York address.
  • All for Africa, the NGO chaired by Bruce Wrobel, appears to have vanished. Its website is not accessible anymore and the contacts previously provided online no longer function.
“Even if the size of the project is reduced, the fragility of Herakles Farms is a high concern,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “It is an unsustainable project, led by a company known for serious wrongdoing, which will take over and destroy people’s farmland and Cameroon’s vital natural resources. Given the project is well below minimum sustainability standards, it begs for immediate intervening review and action by the Cameroonian government,” she continued.
 

Resources

Herakles Exposed: May 2013 report
Massive Deforestation Portrayed as Sustainable Development: September 2012 report
 
Herakles Farms documents for investors
Executive Summary, Herakles Farms Investment Opportunity
Investment Opportunity Presentation, Herakles Farms  
Value Drivers, Herakles Farms
 
Herakles Farms internal documents
Financial Model, Herakles Farms  
 
Greenpeace’s press release on illegal logging by Herakles Farms
OECD complaint by the Center for Environment and Development (CED) and the Network to Fight Against Hunger (RELUFA) 
Original source: Oakland Institute
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