Herakles was divine hero. According to a legend he also went to Africa, and spent a night in some grottoes not far from Tingis (Today’s Tangeri), before attempting one of 12 labors. On his way to the garden of the Hesperides on the island of Erytheia, Herakles (or Hercules) had to cross the mountain that was once Atlas. Instead of climbing the great mountain, Hercules used his superhuman strength to smash through it. By doing so, he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and formed the Strait of Gibraltar. The modern Herakles however is much more damaging.
He (or it) doesn’t wear the lion’s fur, nor uses the club, but the trail of destruction is impressive. It is not a semi-god, however, nor it is a persone: it is an American private equity firm dealing with “sustainable palm oil”. From its very starts, the company has been promising, obtaining an illegal contract with the Cameroon Government in 2009 to establish oil palm nurseries prior to conducting an environmental impact assessment and with no right to the densely forested land it occupied. In 2011, the firm raised its game violating a Cameroonian court moratorium on its activities.Known as SGSOC (the name of its local subsidiary) in Cameroon, the company sustained a key injury as it was busted for illegal logging by the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and EU-funded independent forest observer in 2012. Their form hit an all-time low in 2013 when its right to clear the forest was suspended by the Ministry of Forestry.
As investors fled and employees were furloughed, the few remaining supporters called for new management. New men were called in to stabilise Herakles and they acquired Presidential Decrees to finally officialise their presence in Cameroon (while violating law's on community right to consultation) – although ambitions were tempered when they received the right to only 20,000 hectares of land, way below the 70,000 they were originally after.
The comeback was so impressive Herakles Farms was even named to Global Exchange's prestigious top 10 corporate criminals list.
Newly published Greenpeace report has revealed that Herakles Farms, using a front company, colluded with Cameroon's Minister of Forests to unlawfully obtain a logging permit allowing it to clearcut 2,500ha of forest and export valuable species of timber, while paying 17 times fewer royalties to local communities than average.
Herakles had previously declared in an open letter it would leave the timber for the Cameroonian Government to make "many millions of dollars." In exchange, the company argued, it should be entitled to pay a very low land rental fee for its palm oil plantation. "Say one thing and do the opposite" has come to define Herakles' tactics and style of play, but they are not alone:Cameroon and the European Union signed a trade agreement to eradicate illegal logging and part of worldwide efforts to reduce tropical deforestation. The agreement, which entered into force in 2011, requires Cameroon to "verify the legality of the timber and derived products" sold not only to the EU, but all other markets.
The implementation in Cameroon has been seriously delayed. Now the Minister of Forest's decision to illegally grant a logging permit to a company posing as a front for Herakles – without an auction (as required by law) – casts serious doubt on Cameroon's intention to respect its obligations under the agreement on illegal logging.