Whispers of Injustice – Socfin’s Decade of Legal Battle Echoing in Communities Across Cameroon

August 2023
Gideon Sarpong (farmlandgrab.org)

The troubles of Socfin have frequented reports of land grabbing in Africa over the years. This article based on three months of investigative journalism by Gideon Sarpong and Robert Abunaw looks back on the past 10 years of Socfin’s legal struggles over its palm plantations in Cameroon. Socapalm, Socfin’s Cameroonian subsidiary, embarked on oil palm development in 2006, in Dibombari, an area of lush rainforest. The investment has been beset by allegations of forcible land displacement, pollution of vital water sources, decimation of delicate ecosystems, and sacrilegious intrusion into ancestral lands. Socfin has been fighting Sherpa et al vs Socfin in the French courts, after failing to implement mediated agreements reached in 2013 or address issues raised in a report it commissioned at that time from the Earthworm Foundation. Despite serious allegations around local peoples’ land loss and deforestation remaining unresolved while the legal proceedings continue, Socfin secured a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification in 2022 for its contested operations in Dibombari. This article is a sobering reminder that, though perhaps less in the limelight than they were 10-15 years ago, negative impacts of land investments on community land rights and environments continue on.