A recent OSFAC and OGF training mission to Ingende District in Equateur has raised questions regarding palm oil expansion in DRC. While scoping training locations, the team visited a palm oil plantation located in Boteka village. The palm oil concession is owned by Feronia PHC - a Canadian company with three plantations in DRC with plans to expand to almost 108,000 hectares. The Boteka plantation is active and as of June 2013, it has 3,418 hectares under palm oil production. CDC, The UK government’s development finance institution, has invested $18.1 million dollars in Feronia.
The Moabi team added the location of Boteka plantation to an historical agriculture plantation map obtained from the DRC Ministry of Environment (MECNT). In collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), the MECNT is validating this map, which will illustrate plantations that the government plans to reactivate with new investment.
With vast tracks of tropical forest straddling the equator, an abundance of freshwater, and a favorable climate, DRC could follow Indonesia and become a major exporter of palm oil. Questions remain, however, on when and where this expansion will occur as well as the potential impacts the industry could pose to DRC’s rich biodiversity and its rural communities, particularly indigenous peoples.
Further investigation by OSFAC and OGF into the Boteka plantation highlights these concerns. Using a forest cover map, OSFAC were able to draw an approximate boundary for the Boteka plantation. The map illustrates that while there are historical plantations in Ingende, the Boteka plantation does not appear to be included. This was raised with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture but at a national level neither had information about the Boteka plantation. A request has been filed with Feronia PHC to access their actual plantation boundary and will be added to Moabi as soon as it becomes available.
The Boteka plantation overlaps with BBC logging concession - a Lebanese owned company. OGF contacted BBC but have not been able to confirm whether BBC are aware of the overlap with Boteka plantation. Feronia PHC were also contacted and said they were unaware that their plantation overlapped with the BBC concession.
To estimate where the Boteka plantation may expand, scientists at OSFAC drew a 33,000 hectare buffer around the concession - approximately one third of Feronia’s stated concession area in DRC. The buffer area overlaps with 23,674 hectares of primary forest, 4,267 hectares of secondary forest and 251 hectares of savannah.
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