As palm oil production ramps up in Africa, communities work to avoid problems plaguing other regions

For many, palm oil has become synonymous with environmental devastation in Southeast Asia. Can palm oil production in Africa follow a more sustainable path forward?

Ensia
Ensia
Apr 3, 2019 · 14 min read
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Photo by hodag, from Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Unlike in Indonesia and Latin America, oil palm is native to West Africa, and an important traditional crop with a variety of uses. Here, a woman pours processed palm oil into a glass bottle in Masethele village, Bombali District, Sierra Leone.
Photo courtesy of Aubrey Wade | Namati
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World production of palm oil. (a) Percent of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-reported total global oil palm harvested area in 2013. (b) Percent changes in FAO-reported oil palm harvested area by country, 2003–2013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159668.g001. Source: Vijay, V., Pimm, S. L., Jenkins, C. N., & Smith, S. J. (2016). The impacts of oil palm on recent deforestation and biodiversity loss. PloS One, 11(7), e0159668. Click image to enlarge.
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In this forest in Cameroon, oil palm planting is noticeable where diverse trees switch to monoculture. Photo courtesy of Mokhamad Edliadi | CIFOR
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A farmer in Sierra Leone prepares to climb one of his palm trees to harvest the kernels, which will be processed into palm oil. Photo courtesy of Aubrey Wade | Namati

For Brownell, it does come down to those brands that buy the palm oil for their products. Palm oil producers aren’t vulnerable to the kinds of consumer pressures that can be brought against more familiar brands through actions like boycotts.

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Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet…

Ensia

Written by

Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

Ensia

Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

Ensia

Written by

Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

Ensia

Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

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