CAMEROON – Cameroon has halted a controversial plan to allocate 400,000 hectares of land for industrial cassava production to Lyrebird Capital Company Limited (LCCL). 

The decision, announced on May 22, 2024, follows a high-level directive from the presidency, detailed in a confidential letter from Minister of Domains, Cadastre, and Land Affairs, Henri Eyébé Ayissi.

In the letter dated April 29, 2024, addressed to Jean Baptiste Nganda, LCCL’s representative in Cameroon, Minister Ayissi stated, “Based on the information from the letter dated April 5, 2024, from the Minister of State and Secretary-General of the Presidency, I inform you that following high-level instructions, the terms of my correspondence from December 12, 2023, granting you a special waiver for a provisional concession on approximately 400,000 hectares in Nanga-Eboko have been retracted.”

The project’s cancellation, a significant victory for public engagement, follows its public disclosure on March 27, 2024, by Albert Nanga Dang, the prefect of the Haute Sanaga department. 

Dang’s message invited local leaders and officials to a meeting on April 2, 2024, to discuss the cassava project and the special waivers granted to LCCL. This revelation led to widespread concern about the company’s legitimacy and the scale of land allocation, ultimately leading to the project’s cancellation.

Public objection

Due to the massive land area involved, the proposed project faced significant public backlash. Joël Meyolo, a local academic, voiced his opposition on social media, stating, “Dear administrative, municipal, and traditional authorities of Nanga-Eboko, it is unacceptable to approve a project that cedes 400,000 hectares of our 700,000-hectare district to a fictitious or any company. The people are closely watching the outcomes of the April 2 meeting. Social peace is a hallmark of this administrative unit.

The government’s decision to retract the land concession aims to prevent potential unrest and opposition from environmental NGOs. Historical precedents in Cameroon show strong local resistance to large-scale land projects. 

For instance, Neo Industry’s provisional concession of 26,000 hectares for a cocoa project was canceled in 2021 after a protracted five-year battle. 

Similarly, Herakles Farms abandoned its 20,000-hectare oil palm project in the South-West Region due to sustained pressure from international NGOs. The Lyrebird cassava project, with a land area twenty times larger, threatened to escalate these tensions.

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