With our operations being in some of the most remote and least accessible parts of Africa, it can be difficult to develop an accurate impression of what Feronia's is really about.
We hope that the news stories below will help develop a better understanding of how, through rebuilding this business, we are committed to improving the living and working environment of our employees, their families and their communities and to delivering on our committment to sustainable agriculture, environmental protection and community inclusion.
This section is updated regularly so please return here often to follow our progress.
Agreement between Feronia PHC and local communities on social projects
Feronia PHC welcomed the Provincial Government of Tshopo’s recent initiative to host and mediate a series of meetings in Kisangani.
These meetings aimed to advance dialogue between the Company and local communities from the territories of Isangi, Basoko and Yahuma at Feronia PHC's Lokutu plantation, and establish a “protocol d’accord” to detail the requests and requirements of local communities and formalise how the Company and Communities will work together in this regard.
The meetings took place at the Town Hall in Kisangani over four days (Wednesday 15th – Saturday 18th November) with members of the Provincial Government acting as mediators. An initial meeting between the Company and representatives of the three territories was held on the Wednesday, and there followed meetings between the Company and representatives of each of the three territories.
Over the four days of meetings, the Company and representatives of the communities found common ground and a “protocol d’ accord” was signed with community leaders from each area.
Feronia PHC feels that the Provincial Government’s initiative to host and mediate the meetings was positive; a sentiment shared by the leaders of the Communities involved.
It looks forward to working with the communities in implementing what has been agreed.
The video is a news report by RTNC of the meeting between Feronia PHC and the Yahuma territory community leaders.
An open letter from Xavier de Carniere, Chief Executive Officer of Feronia Inc. following recent media coverage.
An open letter from Xavier de Carniere, Chief Executive Officer of Feronia Inc. following recent media coverage.
Kinshasa, DRC. September 13, 2016
“It is impossible for us to make things right if, as an organization, we are dead.
"Whether you agree with what we are trying to achieve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – rebuilding a business which is one of the few employers and providers of hospitals and social infrastructure in the areas we operate – or not, one thing is certain; if our business dies the livelihoods, hospitals and social infrastructure that rely on our survival will disappear. This is not scaremongering. It is fact. There are dozens of examples of abandoned plantations along the Congo River which once provided jobs, hospitals, social infrastructure and opportunity. Feronia’s plantations could quite easily join them and become another postscript in the DRC’s tumultuous history.
“When we read criticism of Feronia by advocacy non-governmental organisations, as has recently been the case, it hurts us. It hurts us because we truly believe that what we are trying to achieve is hugely positive for the DRC and its people. It hurts us because we are currently a loss making business whose future is yet to be secured. It hurts us because our senior management are working flat out and are totally committed to ensuring the survival of this business in a sustainable way. It hurts us because we are spending a considerable amount of time and money on environmental and social matters because we consider them to be central pillars in making this business the type of business we want it to be. It hurts us because it puts at risk the future of this business and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It hurts us because, more often than not, the criticism is simply not accurate.
“That said, if criticism is warranted and accusations are true we take notice, address the issues raised and look at ways of improving how we operate. We recognise we are not perfect and that outside critique, scrutiny and criticism is important and sometimes warranted. We listen to all criticism and concerns raised and we recognise that advocacy NGOs have an important role to play in highlighting situations in countries such as the DRC which can often go unnoticed. However, it is important to clarify that inaccurate or malicious attacks do real harm to us and other businesses trying to help rebuild post conflict and undeveloped countries.
“Whether the accusations and claims made against us are accurate or not, the outcome for us is always the same. Huge amounts of management time is taken up, questions from our DFI lenders and shareholders are asked and have to be answered and the possibility of this business not surviving in the long term becomes more acute as the ongoing support of our DFI lenders and shareholders is currently vital to our existence. Their raison d’être is to support development in undeveloped nations but even they will walk away if they feel that their reputations are being permanently damaged.
“We have nothing to hide. We firmly believe that Feronia is a positive force in the areas in which we operate through the creation of jobs, health facilities and infrastructure which would not exist if we were to stop doing what we are doing. We are working hard to bring our operations up to globally recognised standards with regards to environmental and social matters and, whilst we have made excellent progress to date, we recognise that we still have much to do. We know that the scrutiny of NGOs is inevitable and necessary. What we welcome though is a dialogue with NGOs, especially advocacy NGOs, so that we can answer their questions and concerns and address the issues that are important.
“We make no secret of our desire to speak with, engage with and work with NGOs. It is something we already do and we recognise that many NGOs have the skills and experience required to rectifying issues and solve problems that affect the people on and around our operations that we do not. We also welcome the opportunity to engage and work with NGOs who have concerns about our operations, such as those that have recently been vocal and critical of us in the media, to ensure we are addressing issues in the right way and to ensure that those who feel they have no voice are heard.
“It has been shown that advocacy NGOs are critical of corporations in the same way that corporations are critical of advocacy NGOs (see image). It is our hope though that by showing a real willingness, openness and ongoing commitment to engage with, communicate with and work with advocacy NGOs, we can create a situation where criticism is valid and useful and can lead to better solutions for the people on the ground that the NGOs represent, Feronia can become a better organisation and, ultimately, the future of this business can be secured for the benefit of tens of thousands of people in the DRC.”
Xavier de Carniere Chief Executive Officer Feronia Inc.
New Collective Agreement signed with six unions which represent over 3,600 Feronia employees
A new Collective Agreement was signed by the six unions which represent the over 3,600 employees of Feronia's palm oil business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following several months of preparation, consultation, discussions and negotiations. The negotiation process focused on achieving common ground on pay, benefits and general terms of employment for both the immediate future and longer term.
The following is the joint statement issued yesterday by Feronia and the six unions which represent the employees of PHC. following the successful conclusion of the negotiations and signing of the new collective agreement:
We are pleased to confirm the completion of formal negotiations to update the Collective Agreement.
These negotiations have been characterized by a strong sense of common purpose. All parties acknowledge the progress the business has made since Feronia acquired PHC in 2009 and the extensive rehabilitation of company operations to date. The willingness of all parties to work together has been a critical factor in progress up to this point and will continue to be an important factor as we strive towards the collective goal of building a sustainable, commercially viable business which secures member and employee livelihoods in the long-term.
As the Company enters a new phase in its development, all parties recognise that improvements to pay, benefits and general terms of employment are needed and it is against this backdrop that a number of revisions to the Collective Agreement, including increases in pay from 1 January 2015, have been agreed.
These revisions represent an ongoing commitment by Feronia to the improvement of pay, benefits and social infrastructure as the operational performance of the Company improves.
All parties are committed to working together to ensure the longevity of this business and restoring it to its former prominence in the fundamental interest of its employees, its communities, its shareholders, and the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
New equipment at hospitals
Thanks to the Rotary Club of Dinant Haute-Meuse in Belgium and the Rotary NGO "Hospitals Without Borders" for their recent donation of medical equipment to Feronia’s Boteka Hospital in the Ingende Territory of Equateur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The equipment, including stethoscopes, resuscitators, blood pressure monitors and surgical instruments was presented to the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Parfait Kiyoso, by Feronia’s ESG Project Director, Pierre Bois d'Enghien, himself a member of the Rotary Club of Dinant Haute-Meuse in Belgium.
The Boteka hospital has one hundred beds and plays a vitally important role in the provision of medical care to an estimated local population of 8,000 people which includes employees, their families and residents of surrounding villages.
Consisting of several units including surgical, maternity and paediatric wards, a laboratory and a number of dispensaries, Dr Kiyoso and his 33 staff treat 3,000 patients per month. Approximately 175 patients are admitted to the hospital each month and the hospital staff deliver on average 20 babies and undertakes 20 major operations which include caesarean sections and the treatment of illnesses such as appendicitis and peritonitis.
Donations such as that made by the Rotary Club of Dinant Haute-Meuse in Belgium and the Rotary NGO "Hospitals Without Borders", play an important role in helping Feronia improve medical treatment available to local people.
Water borehole project
The business Feronia acquired from Unilever in 2009 had experienced years of underinvestment and disruption and this was especially the case with the social infrastructure. Whilst there are operational boreholes on the plantations, they are insufficient and increasing access to clean safe water sources is of critical importance.
This is why Feronia is implementing a ground water project incorporating 52 boreholes across its operations in the DRC.
Improving access to safe, clean water is an important part of Feronia's Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP) which has been developed as a roadmap to embed community and sustainability at the heart of Feronia's business.