By Ajongakou Santos in Tiko
|Fako S.D.O-Zang III|
The study jointly done by the Confederation of Public Service Unions and Yaounde-based Civil Society Program was made public on Friday, June 11, 2015. It targeted local communities of the Niete, Tiko and Nguti council areas, and workers and management of companies such as HEVECAM, SOCAPALM, CDC and SG-SOC (HERAKLES farms).
It noted that by failing to implement their Corporate Social Responsibility these agro-companies only violate their engagements with the local councils and especially the State of Cameroon, that makes the respect of human and environmental rights, cultures, gender, social contracts and economic consideration of workers and local communities a pre-condition for granting concessions and licences to agro-industries..
The Civil Society Strengthening Programme that was established by the 10th European Development Fund and governed by the financial agreement signed between Cameroon and the European Union works to ensure protection of the environment and the respect of social and economic responsibility towards local communities and workers in and around major agro-industries.
It emerged also that, most of these agro-industries have obtained lands from these communities and are exploiting same without adequately compensating the local populations that depended on these lands for their livelihood.
“Workers are poorly treated, paid low salaries irregularly and often times treated to acculturation as most of their cultural values have been eroded, most especially in the South Regional towns of Kribi and Niete where SOCAPALM and HEVECAM are based,” notes the study, which also states that globally the local norms and traditions were not significantly affected; but in Heracles farms Nguti and SOCAPALM in Niete an average of 31% of community members indicated that local customs and traditions were influenced by the presence of these industries including juvenile delinquency, breakages in marriages, and increase in diseases incidences recorded at the hospitals. There is therefore a need for campaigns to address these issues.
According to Fombason Diana and Oswald Cyril - Field Researchers with the Confederation of Public Service Unions, the engagement of these companies to ensure that local actors and key stakeholders are sufficiently mobilised, sensitised, informed and educated on social protection rights and interests and also seeing them actively participate in the advocacy to enhance the social and environmental norms were not respected especially given that most employers and government officials often do not pay any attention to these.
It should be noted that most authorities of the South West Region that were invited notably, the S.D.O of Fako, D.O of Tiko, the Mayor of Tiko, senior officials of the CDC amongst others failed to show up at the workshop to present the report of the study that started since August 2014.
According to Mrs. Ekwai Mercy, chief of service for sensitization at the regional delegation of environment and nature protection, her ministry will see to it that some of the recommendations of the study are taken into consideration.
“We will make sure that most of these defaulting agro-industries are punished,” she said, citing notably the Plantation Haut Penja (PHP) around Likumba in the South West Region that is massively damaging the environment.