Although growing international recognition of forests’ role on food sovereignty for forest-dependant populations, large amounts of medicinal and highly nutritious plants are disappearing due to deforestation. This is the case of Benin, where 12% of the households have lost food sovereignty, 38% of medicinal plants have vanished and malnourishment is prevalent.
In late 2013, a group of representatives of African, Indonesian and international NGOs met with members of La Via Campesina and the African Biodiversity Network in Calabar, Nigeria, to address the massive expansion of industrial oil palm plantations on the African continent and discuss, in particular, the situation in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.
Original version by Ricardo Carrere - updated by the WRM in 2013. Oil palm is a traditional native crop for West and Central African communities, who are used to either plant them on their lands or to collect fruits, leaves or sap from native palms to use them in their daily lives: from locally processing palm oil to be used in the household or sold in the local markets to producing palm wine. Oil palm is part of their culture.
Oil palm has historically played an important role in Benin and oil palm plantations, as opposed to naturally occurring palm groves, were established in the 19th century to meet an increasingly greater demand for palm oil from Western countries, primarily to supply their soap factories.By this time, oil palm was grown on an estimated 500,000 hectares of land in Benin, and the processing of oil palm products was entirely manual, carried out by women small-scale producers.
La production d’huile de palme est séculaire au Bénin et elle s’est toujours faite surtout par des méthodes artisanales. Ce sont précisément les femmes qui fabriquent l’huile de palme pour la consommation locale. Or, au nom de la « modernisation de la production », le rôle des femmes se voit aujourd’hui menacé.
Oil palm and rubber plantations are very similar in many respects, but there is something that clearly differentiates them: oil palm is a native species in many West African countries –and part of the culture of local peoples- while rubber is clearly an alien species brought in by the Colonial powers. Oil palm and rubber plantations in Western and Central Africa: An Overview
In most of the African countries, claims concerning community-based forest and natural resource management have arisen as a reaction to the repressive nature of natural resource laws inherited from Colonial times. Forestry laws in force in the post-Colonial period compromised local community rights to forest ownership. Licences and other forms of taxes so far unknown to local communities were imposed to control the exploitation of forest products that the local inhabitants had had free access to previously, either for their domestic consumption or for marketing.