Belgium backing unhealthy conditions on palm oil plantations in Congo?

The international human rights’ organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised the issue of the plight of Congolese workers at one of the country’s largest palm oil businesses.  HRW says the health of workers is endangered, but a big Belgian investor points to the progress already made.

HRW focuses in on the lot of workers on three Feronia/PHC plantations in northern Congo in a report entitled “A Dirty Investment”.  The business can count on the support of BIO, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries.  This public body says that it is taking the allegations seriously but that “a lot has happened” in recent years.

BIO’s Luuk Zonneveld: “We regularly dispatch inspectors and we are insistent that the situation must improve.  Don’t forget we have come a long way.  Wages have trebled.  Workers have protective clothing and a major renovation project involving workers’ housing is underway.  72 wells have been dug or renovated to ensure clean drinking water.  Each year thousands of patients receive care in renovated medical facilities.”