Setting the record straight on false allegations in World Rainforest Movement’s petition about Olam’s palm plantations in Gabon

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Map of the area around Nanga and Ferra:
The map shows the area around the villages of Nanga and Ferra, identifying the high conservation value areas, including forest and savannah, which are being permanently protected (in Green). Nanga and Ferra are located on the main road, kilometres away from the planted area of our palm plantation (in Blue). The remaining savannah areas are marked (in yellow). (Download map)
Olam | 20 September 2019

Setting the record straight on false allegations in World Rainforest Movement’s petition about Olam’s palm plantations in Gabon
 
In response to the petition published by the World Rainforest Movement, we want to correct the factual inaccuracies and to strongly refute the false allegations made about our oil palm operations in Gabon.
 
The petition makes three allegations: 1) Olam has deforested within traditional areas of the communities of Nanga and Ferra to create palm plantations; 2) we have expanded into the village lands on the left bank of the Dola river against the consent of the communities; 3) we have not fulfilled our promises to provide support to these villages. These allegations are false and unfounded.
 
We want to set the record straight by sharing the facts, along with photographs and maps, to show what we are doing to conserve landscapes and support these communities in Gabon:
 
1. There has been zero deforestation of lands around Nanga and Ferra. The area is predominantly grassland and all forests and other high conservation value (HCV) lands (including HCV savannahs and wetlands) are being protected as part of our commitment to conserve all HCV areas in our palm concessions. 
 
We are permanently protecting 72,000 hectares of HCV forest and land – 50 per cent of our overall oil palm concession area of 144,000 hectares in Gabon. We employ around 60 wildlife rangers and set up partnerships to prevent the illegal hunting and logging that were previously prevalent in these HCV areas. 
 
Since January 2017, we have committed to a moratorium on any kind of forest clearance for new plantation expansion, and are supporting a process for multi-stakeholder consensus on sustainable agriculture in highly forested countries like Gabon.

All our oil palm plantations have been developed in line with the RSPO Principles and Criteria for sustainable palm oil. Three of our palm plantations have achieved RSPO certification and we are on track to have all our plantations RSPO certified by 2021. No primary or high conservation value rainforests have been converted for palm plantations. Our plantations are located only on areas of land that have been identified and mapped as grassland, secondary regrowth or degraded logging areas; not on HCV areas. These areas were mapped and independently assessed prior to us commencing our development.

2. There has been no “land grabbing” by Olam, either in Nanga and Ferra or elsewhere in Gabon. Both communities participated in a fully inclusive process to ensure their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to plans for agricultural development in their area.
  • The area is part of the land concession allocated to SOTRADER, which is a programme to enable local farmers to earn an income from palm and staple food crops. The communities of Nanga and Ferra agreed to the development plans which were made with their full participation, and will share ownership with their neighbouring communities of the palm plantations as a cooperative.
  • Under the FPIC process, we agreed with the communities’ need to retain very large areas to protect their traditional activities of hunting, fishing and subsistence agriculture. The areas were mapped with the communities’ participation and agreement, and recorded in the legal process which granted our license to operate. The villages are not hemmed in or isolated by Olam palm plantations. They are located on the main road between the towns of Mouila and Ndende, several kilometers from the existing palm plantations, which are situated away from the main road and the villages, and they do not impinge on the communities’ traditional livelihood activities. Regarding the specific area on the left bank of the Dola river mentioned in the petition, none of this area has been developed for palm. Thousands of hectares of savannah and forest on the left bank of the Dola river are permanently protected. The communities have free access to all the areas to carry out their traditional activities.
3. Contrary to the claim that we are not fulfilling our social contract obligations, we are on track with delivery of the projects agreed with the community to support people living in the area. This includes improving local education facilities and building houses for teachers; providing better access to healthcare through a new dispensary and houses for nurses, creating local employment, and the installation of hydraulic pumps to deliver fresh water.
 
We strongly believe this petition misrepresents the facts on the ground and is not representative of views of the whole community. The claims in this petition have already been rejected by ROSCEVAC, a NGO network based in Gabon, in national and local media.  We have hosted both local and international NGOs and stakeholders in Gabon to see first-hand our environmentally and socially responsible approach, which included a visit to these areas.
 
Olam produces less than 1% of the world’s palm oil, but we conserve around one third of all the high conservation value habitat protected by palm companies globally. We are proud that our palm plantations in Gabon are held as a positive example of environmentally and socially responsible palm production and we will continue to have open and constructive dialogue with the local communities and stakeholders.
 
Further details about our actions and progress on palm is available on our web site.
Original source: Olam
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