A monumental and very slick land grab in Cameroon, west Africa by a US-based company appears to be heading for collapse. The Herakles Farm project “appears to have now gone off the rails”, the Oakland Institute, which monitors land grabbing, said in a press release.
“Herakles Farms had purported to herald a new era of ‘sustainable agriculture’ by replacing old-growth rainforest with palm oil plantations”, the Oakland Institute said – but since May, when a report documented the owners’ “false promises, risks and legal flaws”, problems have mounted.
The Herakles project was support by a supposed “not-for-profit” charitable organisation, All for Africa, which was connected to Herakles Farms and Sithe Global, an energy development company. (They all share the same address in New York.) Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Herakles and Sithe, has just retired for unspecified reasons.
The seductive tone of the proposal for the Herakles project is clear in a 2008 YouTube video, one of several . The glossy web sites and advertising campaigns of both Herakles Farms and the now-apparently-defunct All for Africa were designed by the branding and marketing company Tronvig Group.
This disaster for farmers and their families in Cameroon is an arguably inevitable outcome of the policy – supported by the World Bank and other development agencies – of encouraging rich-world investors to grab land in poor Asian and African countries. See a feature article by Steve Drury here. Details of the Herakles project are exposed in an Oakland Institute report.