This article was originally published on Conservation International’s Human Nature Blog
“Editor’s note: In Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer, the crop is critically important to the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers who grow about 40 percent of it. But too often, palm oil represents a trade-off between economic expansion and clearing forest and peatland areas that are important for conservation, raising the question of how to expand production of a commodity like palm oil without degrading the environment.
Conservation International (CI) is tackling this problem through its Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP) program, which works to reconcile the conservation of natural capital — the sources of the benefits that nature provides to people — while supporting sustainable development. In a recent interview, the senior technical advisor of CI Indonesia’s terrestrial program, Simon Badcock, explains how the SLP is helping preserve species-rich areas, reduce deforestation and educate farmers about how they can maximize productivity.
Question: Can you give us a brief background on the state of the palm oil industry in Indonesia and why it has expanded so much?
A: Palm oil’s rapid growth can be traced to two things: productivity and versatility. Not only is its production more land-efficient than other oils, it can be used by many industries in many different products, ranging from pharmaceuticals to foods like ice cream and cookies, to the products that we use every day — it’s even in toothpaste. If you go into the supermarket, you’ll see it in almost everything.
However, in Indonesia large islands like Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Papua contain incredibly important areas for conservation — they have a lot of unique plants and animals, they’re important for water, etc. And so as the palm oil industry has expanded rapidly over the last 10 or 15 years, there’s been significant deforestation and loss of biodiversity. So one of the challenges now for the country is figuring out how to create a development path that has less impact on the environment…”
Read on at: Conservation International’s Human Nature Blog.