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.
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.
For the basis of this Policy:
“Ecosystem Services” are described and classified as follows:
Supporting services: services needed for the production of all other ecosystem services including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling;
Provisioning services: products obtained from ecosystems, including food, fibre, genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, ornamental resources, fresh water;
Regulating services: benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation;
Cultural services: non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, aesthetic experiences, landscape values.
“Free, Prior and Informed Consent” is the right of indigenous peoples and other local communities to give or to withhold their consent to any project affecting their lands, livelihoods and environment. This consent should be given or withheld freely, meaning without coercion, intimidation or manipulation, and through communities’ own freely chosen representatives such as their customary or other institutions. It should be sought prior to the project going ahead, meaning sufficiently in advance of any authorisation or commencement of activities and respecting the time requirements of indigenous consultation processes. It should be informed, meaning that communities must have access to and be provided with comprehensive and impartial information on the project, including the nature and purpose of the project, its scale and location, duration, reversibility, and scope; all possible economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts, including potential risks and benefits, resulting from the project and that the costs and benefits of alternative development options can be considered by the community with, or offered by, any other parties who wish to do so, with whom the community is free to engage. Key to respecting consent are iterative processes of collective consultation, the demonstration of good faith in negotiations, transparent and mutually respectful dialogue, broad and equitable participation, and free decision by the community to give or withhold consent, reached through its self-chosen mode of decision making.
“Impact & Benefit Agreement” designates an agreement between communities and companies, including governments where possible, meant to record the understanding of what is promised by a company and for a community to hold the company to these promises into the future.
“Legacy Land” operations refer to situations in which the agricultural asset is a long standing and large scale operation. Legacy Land is defined as agricultural concessions and plantations that are (i) long established (a minimum of 10 years) (ii) where the details of acquisition/lease arrangements and baseline socio-economic conditions may be uncertain, and (iii) compensation arrangements for individuals and / or communities whose livelihoods were affected are uncertain or contested. In its treatment of Legacy Land issues Feronia uses the guidance developed by CDC Group and DEG, Legacy Land issues in Agribusiness Investments (2016).
Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, Criteria 7.6
A “legitimate land tenure holder”for the purposes of this document is defined as a person, family, community, or business with rights to the land or associated natural resources, whether based on indigenous rights, custom, informality, or occupation, regardless of whether the right is currently protected by law or formally recorded.
Depending on the specific context, these agreements go by a range of names, including: Community-Based Agreements, Community Development Agreements, Benefit Sharing Agreements, Partnering Agreements, Indigenous Land Use Agreements, Empowerment Agreements, Community Contracts, Shared Responsibility Agreements, and Good Neighbour Charters.