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Our Addiction to Palm Oil Is Wiping Out Wildlife and Threatening Food Security

Sumatran Orangutans are critically involved due to immeasurable areas of their timberland medium being broken for acclimatisation to oil palm plantations.
Photo Credit: Roger Smith/Flickr

Palm oil is now a entire general commodity. It’s a pivotal part in a far-reaching operation of consumer products—foods, cosmetics, soaps, pharmaceuticals and biofuel. The direct for palm oil is strong. The World Bank has estimated that an additional 28 million metric tons of unfeeling oils will have to be constructed annually by 2020. Oil palm will be a major writer to this tonnage. By 2050 palm oil direct is foresee to be 240 million metric tons per annum, scarcely twice the tonnage in 2009.

Most global expenditure of wanton palm oil is from large-scale monoculture plantations that transparent vast areas of land and plant a singular class as a crop. To meet the high enlargement in global and domestic demand, the area of land in writer countries now dedicated to large-scale palm oil prolongation has augmenting dramatically. This enlargement has come by clearing endless areas of internal forest, displacing communities, contributing poignant levels of immature gas emissions, endangering many class and harmful levels of biodiversity.

When scrupulously grown and managed, oil palm plantations can play an critical role in improving livelihoods and eradicating misery in tillage areas. Yet, assumptions are mostly made, by consumers and regulators, that large-scale, monoculture, oil palm should be the focus.


In the essay that was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management, we disagree that large-scale oil palm prolongation erodes, rather than contributes to biodiversity charge and food security. Instead, the global palm oil attention must welcome the intensity of tillage smallholder environmental, social and mercantile sustainability, and settle a acceptance of socially just and environmentally soft palm oil production.

Monoculture plantations are rarely homogenized (see photographs below, right). They interrupt profitable functions of biodiversity and create bankrupt landscapes that besiege wildlife and healthy biodiversity functions. By contrast, small-scale farmers and are characterized by diverse, low impact tillage (see photographs below, left). Substantial biodiversity advantages can and do come from smallholdings, including eccentric or managed farmers, that comment for 14 percent of the 5 million hectares of oil palm land.

Managed smallholders are regulated by supervision tillage manners that resemble camp government (e.g. planting one form of crop). They are not allowed to plant anything but oil palm on their farms and must sell their collect to government-linked mills.

Photographs: Smallholdings (top left) and large-scale plantations (top right) represent two opposite palm oil prolongation systems in Indonesia and Malaysia. Besides oil palm, other crops such as bananas are planted in the margin (top left). Independent smallholders (bottom left) count on primer labor while camp companies partisan thousands of unfamiliar workers and use machines (bottom right) to grow oil palms. (credit: Badrul Azhar)

Independent smallholders are where the biodiversity gains can be derived. Levels of biodiversity within and around many oil palm eccentric smallholdings are poignant and important. These landscapes horde a farrago and firmness of trees and understory internal flora. These farmers conduct mixed age stands of oil palm, and interplant them with other crops and inland fruit trees. Their tillage practices create formidable mosaics of tiny cultivated areas that are integrated with stock to boost the sources of protein for internal consumption. This is polyculture farming. Wildlife visiting polyculture landscapes pierce simply and depend, occasionally, on resources and habitats inside the smallholdings. In return, elements of biodiversity flourish.

Smallholding oil palm cultivation also creates a estimable grant to misery alleviation, equity improvement, and mercantile enlargement in tillage areas, lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of contemptible poverty, giving them a decent customary of living. Independent smallholders have the leisure to variegate their commercial crops and urge food confidence in their communities. The solid income ensures a transition towards minimal deforestation and reduces tillage migration. By contrast, large-scale camp companies, quite in Malaysia, customarily occupy a vast series of unfamiliar workers as laborers on the plantations, mostly since there is a labor necessity among locals.

The fortitude of global food confidence in the building universe is cultivation used under smallholder farmer-dominated landscapes, not large-scale farming. In the eventuality of crop disaster or a dump in the marketplace cost of commodity crop, smallholders can withstand mercantile uncertainties by selling delegate crops to the marketplace or using them for domestic consumption. They are not specialized and contingent on one species, and can switch to choice crops easily. By contrast, camp companies with monoculture systems are exposed to augmenting operational costs and changes in marketplace prices. When times are difficult, they sell tillage lands for civic growth or change their upstream camp to countries with cheaper labor costs.

Despite this evidence, the loyal value for biodiversity of tillage lands under smallholder farmer-dominated landscapes is insufficiently concurred or understood. Oil palm acceptance schemes are prohibitively costly for smallholders, quite those identified as eccentric growers. These schemes are characterized by top-down approaches that don’t consider the smallholder socio-ecological perspectives, and as a effect they destroy to embody these energetic and opposite tillage practices. In turn, by focusing of existent acceptance schemes, consumer markets criticise smallholding systems of palm oil prolongation as critical sources of honestly tolerable palm oil in producing countries.

Global oil palm must change to save biodiversity and urge food security. Scientists and policy makers should commend the grant of oil palm smallholdings to farmland biodiversity charge and tillage misery reduction. Palm oil producing countries must still have transparent policies and clever law coercion to strengthen the ecological firmness of existent stable areas, and need that oil palm growers say farmland biodiversity in prolongation landscapes, but consumers of palm oil should be means to consciously select palm oil from smallholdings and investigate policies adhered to by approved plantations. This is not now possible.

Obviously, vast camp companies must urge their deleterious tillage practices. But, ultimately, big is not the answer. It is essential that global palm oil changes, and embraces the intensity of tillage smallholder environmental, social and mercantile sustainability and establishes a acceptance of socially just and some-more environmentally soft oil palm production.


Badrul Azhar is a charge biologist specialising in pleasant rainforest, farmland and civic biodiversity. He perceived his PhD from the Australian National University in 2011, and is formed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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