Original blogpost by Alexa Phillips, Greenpeace Africa
For many people thoughts are already turning to the festive period and a well-earned rest. All Nasako Besingi wants for Christmas is for Herakles Farms to say they are leaving him and his fellow villagers’ land alone.
2012 has been a tough year for the Cameroonian activist, the director of the NGO Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), which has been leading resistance to Herakles’ proposed palm oil plantation in the country. While preparing a peaceful demonstration last month, he was arrested with other SEFE activists and detained without charge. For months he’s been subjected to constant harassment culminating in a court appearance this week where he again left without any charge being laid.
But a tough year had a brighter ending and showed Nasako his struggle is not in vain, as he received an award last week in recognition of his and his colleagues’ efforts to protect local livelihoods and biodiversity.
The Citizens’ Governance Initiatives, a Cameroonian association which aims to promote transparency and open governance within the country, awarded Nasako the TAIGO 2012 “non-State actor” prize , in a ceremony at which the Vice President of the New York Times David McCraw was the main speaker.
The jury acknowledged the sacrifices that Nasako is making to help his community in their opposition to the Herakles project.
Nasako is deeply concerned by the potentially devastating impacts of the US corporation’s proposed 73,000 hectare plantation, which is currently home to thousands of people and located between five protected areas of enormous ecological value.
With little consultation conducted by the company with local residents who stand to lose their livelihoods and control over land they have worked for generations, opposition to the proposed development has continued to grow.
“This award I receive not only in my personal capacity, but rather on behalf of those who have worked alongside me, within the community as well as further afield,” he said. “I wish that our struggle against illegal land grabbing will continue, because we believe that the current location of the Herakles Farms’ palm oil project in the middle of environmentally sensitive areas will have far reaching negative impacts on the local human population, wildlife and botanical biodiversity.”
Greenpeace agrees. And we’ll continue working alongside Nasako into the New Year until this project is stopped.