Olam has partnered with the Government of the Republic of Gabon in a 60:40 Joint Venture to manage 37,000 hectares. To date, Olam Rubber Gabon has planted 11,000 hectares and is protecting around 25,000 hectares.
The development of the plantation is in line with the Government’s proposed National Land Use Plan as it seeks to develop an economy less dependent on fossil fuels, as well as providing private sector employment. However, for the development of agriculture, Gabon has the challenge that more than 85% of its land is covered by forest. Of the remaining non-forested land, much of it is swamp or infertile. Through the Plan, Gabon has identified sufficient areas of highly degraded forests and abandoned fallows to meet its needs, while preserving and sustainably managing all of its high conservation value and high carbon stock and old-growth forests.
The OPG rubber concession lies within an area of abandoned agricultural fallows and mixed secondary forests, in a hilly landscape dissected by broad, flat swamps and rivers. We conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in 2011 which went through a public consultation before land preparation. As a result of these surveys, we were able to identify 11,000 ha of plantable lands on the flatter hills, favouring wherever possible the rattan scrub, but also including some areas of secondary forests. The best-quality habitats (maturing and high-biomass forests), as well as all wetlands, have been protected in an extensive, well connected network of core habitat and buffer zones (approximately 13,400 ha of conserved terra firma forest, including village use areas (318 ha) and 9,500 ha of swamp forests and wetlands). The ratio of protected ecosystems is approximately 67% of the concession. A strict no-hunting policy has been put in place to ensure that these forests gradually recover from historical overhunting. We have also achieved ISO14001 certification for environmental management for our rubber operations.
We have allocated USD 9.6 million for social investment which has already resulted in 625 solar lamps, 45 hydraulic pumps; road access for villages, and the rehabilitation of schools. Outside of the Social Contract, ORG also set up a Social Fund, managed by a similar tripartite committee, to support community development projects on an ongoing basis.