This Land Policy (the “Policy”) of the Corporation outlines a set of goals and measures which the Corporation and its employees, officers, directors and contractors (herein collectively referred to as “Representatives”) adopt for meeting objectives related to land use and management in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Introduction and Context
The history of Feronia’s palm oil business spans over one hundred years’ including decades of economic and social turbulence, conflict and civil unrest.
The plantations were founded by Lever Brothers (which became Unilever) in 1911 as Huileries du Congo Belge (HCB) and went on to become one of the largest private sector employers in Africa, supplying edible oils and agricultural products to local and international markets. At its peak, the company consisted of 11 plantations covering approximately 200,000 hectares. HCB remained in continuous operation in the Congo through the transformation from Belgian rule to independence, changing name several times as a result, and became Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A (“PHC”) in 1997. As a result the plantations have a long and complex history involving several owners.
Feronia recognizes that running a profitable and accountable agribusiness company requires a commitment to the sustainable management of land that protects biodiversity and ecosystem services respects social values and community needs, and commit to sincere and long term community and stakeholder engagement.
This policy sets out Feronia’s approach to land management, whilst ensuring compliance with appropriate laws in the DRC and international standards and good practices including specifically:
The Principles and Criteria agreed by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) including any relevant applicability of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for example in any future greenfield expansion
International Finance Corporation Performance Standards (2012 version)
Land and Environment
Feronia will strive to protect and sustainably manage natural resources on land for which it has legal title and management control:
Preventing, minimizing, and remedying negative impacts on soil, water, forests, and biodiversity;
Supporting and conserving biodiversity and genetic resources, including local genetic resources, and contributing to the restoration of ecosystem functions and services, recognizing the needs of local communities and the role that they can jointly play in protecting and managing land ;
Reducing waste and losses in production and post-harvest operations, and enhancing the efficiency of production and the productive use of waste and/or by-products (for example as soil enhancers);
Taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
Integrating traditional and scientific knowledge with best practices and to increase oil palm production efficiency at the same time as protecting soil, water and other natural resources;
Implementing appropriate and effective remedial and/or compensatory actions in the case of negative impacts or non-compliance with national law or international good practices.
Feronia is specifically committed to No deforestation of high conservation value (HCV) lands and, as such, will:
Preserve High Conservation Value (HCV) land in accordance with RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) 5.2 and 7.3 ;
Maintain a no-burn commitment, as prescribed by RSPO Criteria 5.5.
Land and Communities
Feronia recognizes that indigenous people and rural communities may have a strong attachment to lands they have access to and on which they may have traditionally lived and harvested food and other products. Feronia recognizes that these factors must be carefully considered in the management of concessions.
Given the long history of Feronia’s concessions, it is particularly important that Feronia recognises the relatively high rate of population growth in its areas of operation and establishes and maintains effective relationships with local communities in and around our concessions, in order to promote sustainable use of land.
Feronia has, and will continue to implement the following in order to optimize its engagement with external stakeholders:
Consultation with local communities on an ongoing basis so that they are aware of Feronia’s Land Policy and Land Management Plans, to the extent of influencing their content
Maintaining demarcation lines around land titles and resolving boundary issues via a collaborative process involving local authorities, civil society representatives and neighboring land users;
The use of an international standard compliant grievance mechanism to ensure a confidential and safe process for investigating allegations raised by affected parties and to help ensure that this Policy is properly implemented;
Refraining from undertaking work on land that is contested by local communities with demonstrable legal, customary or user rights;
Not undertaking work on areas where local communities are currently undertaking livelihood activities, without having reached a consensual agreement with the affected stakeholders.
Land Legacy issues
Feronia acknowledges that there are issues relating to Legacy Land on some of its concessions and recognizes that these factors need to be closely considered in this Policy and in relation to its community relations and development work. Feronia is also cognisant of “A Guidance Note on managing legacy land issues in agribusiness investments” published by CDC and DEG.
Where there is uncertainty over the boundaries, history and historical acquisition and use of land, Feronia has committed to a process of consultation (the level of consultations aims to reach the equivalent of free, prior and informed consent) and mutually beneficial engagement with affected parties which aims to:
Allow the sharing of historical information through forums of dialogue based on collective memory and oral tradition;
Provide support to community sub-groups that may have been affected by past land acquisition to create a better life for themselves and future generations by benefitting from opportunities from economic developments;
Ensure the financial sustainability of the Corporation through risk reduction;
Seek to improve income in local communities
Promote greater coordination, cooperation and partnerships to maximize synergies so as to improve livelihoods;
Seek to maximize the hiring of people residing within the immediate vicinity of the Corporation’s operation;
Land and Governance
In its approach to land management, Feronia actively engages on the policies, programs and opportunities concerning land rights and tenure in industry, governmental and international organizations that are addressing land rights policy in DR Congo. As such, Feronia:
Adheres to the legal requirements of the Democratic Republic of Congo;
Engages with appropriate palm oil industry and other groups to positively impact and respect all legitimate land tenure rights and the people who hold them;
Has committed to a presumption of transparency such that relevant information relating to Feronia’s land titles is made publically available;
Feronia has no intention of acquiring new portions of undeveloped land for the foreseeable future. Its business model is to rehabilitate previously planted areas.
If, at some point in the future, Feronia intends to increase its plantation area through leasing additional land, the Company commits to weigh potential E&S risks and issues against the Standards defined in section 1, undertake effective Environmental and Social Due Diligence (ESDD) and develop acceptable mitigation measures, based on precedent and to comply with RSPO New Planting Procedures including those related to FPIC.
The Corporation will evaluate the risks of leasing any such land and any fitting mitigation measures, including not proceeding.
Shared Use of Land
In areas where people use land within Feronia’s land titles, Feronia will seek to agree joint management and monitoring guidelines with them which will be included as provisions in an Impact and Benefit Agreement. Such provisions would cover considerations including, slash-and-burn practices, optimization of agricultural methods, long-term fertility strategies, regular monitoring, emergency preparedness and responses, resilience and protection of biodiversity.
Feronia may decide to relinquish land over which it has legal title, or decide not to renew certain land titles. In such instances, and to the extent possible, it will establish a relinquishment strategy including the rationale, potential risks and mitigation measures by:
Assessing the conservation significance and ecosystem service values of this land;
Consulting with potentially impacted local communities so as to thoroughly understand their use of the land and to explain the Company’s rationale for relinquishment;
Work with potentially affected communities and Regulator representatives to facilitate continued access to / use of the land, protection of ecosystem services and conservation values subsequent to relinquishment.
Governance of this Policy
Environmental Social and Governance (“ESG”) matters within Feronia, including this Policy, are managed by the Company management team, led by the CEO, and are integral to the operations of the Company. Implementation on the ground is handled by the Company ESG team led by the ESG Director.
Ultimate responsibility for ESG within Feronia rests with Feronia’s Board of Directors, who monitor progress and developments, and approve strategic direction, through an ESG Board sub-committee, whose members consist of three non-executive directors supported by a number of technical specialists.
The details of how these Policy commitments will be achieved are defined in internal Company procedures.
Information on how to report a suspected violation of this and other Feronia policies can be found on our website: http://www.feronia.com/pages/view/grievance_procedure
This Policy is neither a contract nor a comprehensive manual that covers every situation that might be encountered.
The Company will review the impact of this Policy and update these commitments from time to time in the light of its performance and current good practices.