Monrovia – A West African Regional Civil Society Body ‘Friends of the Earth Africa’ (FoEA) through the NGO Forum has stressed the need for institutions, such as the working group on extractive industries, environment and human rights, to conduct a research that will address the adverse impacts of large-scale monoculture plantations in Africa, including country visits to heavily impacted countries and communities.

The group also wants the provision of assistance to authorities to implement a moratorium on the expansion of land-based concessions for monoculture plantations that lead to deforestation, biodiversity loss and related human rights violations.

In a zoom conference with regional journalists, the group also pushed for a guarantee that will ensure that the perpetrators of deforestation and related human rights violations, including transnational companies and their financiers, are held accountable for their inputs and do not continue their practices in/with impunity.

The group wants to support authorities to install programs that promote agro-ecology and family farming a community-based agriculture devoid of chemical use and community forest management methods, including providing access to finance for smallholders.

The group is also looking to bring to a halt, the criminalization and harassment of Environmental Human Rights defenders including Women Environmental rights defenders and provide access to justice for defenders and affected indigenous people and local communities.

Additionally, the group is advocating to member countries to “respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to land including women’s access and ownership rights to land in Africa and protect and restore the environment. Ensure that the ACHPRs considers the annual conduct of human rights and environmental audits within member states.”

It is also encouraging African government and the African Union to engage proactively in the process towards a strong and effective UN Binding Treaty on transnational corporations and human rights, in order to stop corporate impunity and hold corporations accountable including agro-commodities companies for their environmental and human rights violations in Africa.

At the 73rd Ordinary Session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) holding from October 20th to November 9th, 2022, at The Gambia. Reaffirming that the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution in July 2022, declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.

Recalling the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights mandate to promote and protect human and people’s rights in Africa. Under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (African Charter), recognizes the rights of forest dependent peoples and local communities impacted by large-scale agro commodities expansion.                                                                                                                                                         

Considering the report of the working group on the rights of indigenous communities in Africa, adopted by the Commission in 2003 at its 28th Ordinary Session, and which among others recognizes that protection of communal rights to land is fundamental for the survival of indigenous communities in Africa.

Reaffirming multiple global agreements and commitments from African states to address climate change and halt deforestation and biodiversity loss. And stressing the urgency with which all must act if we are to prevent societies from the grave impacts of climate and biodiversity crisis, amidst social environmental and gender injustices in Africa with records of devastating impacts of large-scale monoculture plantation expansion on women.

Acknowledging that industrial plantation expansion by agro commodities companies is the single biggest contributor to deforestation and biodiversity loss in Africa, with deforestation the second biggest contributor to climate catastrophe after oil and gas exploration activities in the continent.

Observing that in 2020, 331 defenders were killed across 25 countries around the world with at least 227 of them EHRDs who were either murdered, brutalized or silenced with agro commodities sector-one of the most dangerous sectors for Environmental Human Rights Defenders, EHRDs, in Africa.

Observing with much concern that deforestation and other environmental harms have continued unabated for decades in Africa. Evidence that civil society and researchers have been documenting the role of foreign investments and transnational corporations in driving deforestation and related human rights violations. The industrial monoculture plantations sector has been of specific concern as they continue their destructive practices and human rights abuses in impunity.

Further observing that millions of Africans experience adverse impacts by industrial monoculture plantations, consisting of crops such as oil palm, timber trees. Pollution of soil and water with chemicals and waste, the destruction of water sources, deforestation, and erosion are just some of the environmental impacts. Whereas plantations are also structurally connected to human rights violations including harassment and violence – specifically against women and environmental human rights defenders, land rights violations and labor rights violations.