News / Africa

Demand for Palm Oil Fuels Land Conflicts in Africa, Southeast Asia

In southwest Cameroon, forests are razed for a palm oil plantation. (Courtesy Center for Environment and Development Cameroon) In southwest Cameroon, forests are razed for a palm oil plantation. (Courtesy Center for Environment and Development Cameroon)
x
In southwest Cameroon, forests are razed for a palm oil plantation. (Courtesy Center for Environment and Development Cameroon)
In southwest Cameroon, forests are razed for a palm oil plantation. (Courtesy Center for Environment and Development Cameroon)

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Kim Lewis
As the world’s demand for palm oil increases, deforestation and the resulting release of carbon dioxide emissions continue to be a concern.  However, The Forest Peoples Programme, a human rights advocacy organization dedicated to securing the rights of people who live in forests, recently released a report that said the growing global demand for palm oil that is fueling the large-scale expansion of palm oil plantations across the forests of Southeast Asia and Africa,  is also a human rights issue. 

Palm oil has become a lucrative business, said Norman Jiwan, executive director of,  Transformation for Justice Indonesia – TuK INDONESIA, and, co-editor of the report that was released at a press conference in Medan, Indonesia.  He explained that the crop produces a higher yield of edible oil compared to other edible crops, including soy and grape seed.

He also explained that the huge demand for palm oil in the world marketplace has fueled expansive land clearances, and most of this is done illegally, without the consent of the local land owners.

“This mass expansions of palm oil industry in Indonesia has created serious land conflict because of the land grabbing, land clearing without consent from local communities and indigenous peoples.  And the likelihood of local communities and indigenous peoples’ right to food is being threatened because of the massive expansions of the palm oil industry,” said Jiwan.

A United Nations mandate created in 2001 called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, was designed to bring deforestation under control.  In addition it established clear guidelines for the ethical and ecological production of palm oil that member companies, which represent about 40-percent of the global palm trade, would adhere to.

“It’s really good to have standards on paper, but the question from our human rights perspective is, ‘To what extent these standards are implemented—and properly address the issues of rights of local communities and indigenous peoples?’” said  Jiwan. 

Major expansion of the palm oil industry is also taking place in Africa. The countries involved so far are, Liberia and Cameroon.  There are also plans for production in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast. 

Dr. Marcus Colchester is senior policy advisor for the Forest Peoples Programme. 

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is the same kind of problems as we have already identified in Southeast Asia.  That’s to say the governments are handing out permits to these areas without first talking to communities, without firstly making sure their rights are recognized and secured.  And so, the conflicts are brewing up in these different countries as the companies come in and take over the land and forests of these indigenous peoples, and other local communities,”  explained Colchester.

On the bright side, the senior policy advisor highlighted that member companies of the RSPO have responded to two complaints filed in Liberia with the help of the Forest Peoples Programme.  The companies have agreed to slow down production and - in some areas - to stop production until the land disputes are settled.

“That process is underway, and so it does show to us that there is a value to this procedure --that the RSPO have called a new planting procedure, whereby companies planning to plant, should first announce their plans and then there’s an opportunity for communities or NGO’s to raise concerns.  This should allow problems to be solved in advance of the expansion of the frontier,” said Colchester.

He acknowledged the legal process is a slow process, but still a good sign that progress is being made in taking human rights into consideration along with the environmental concerns.

“What we find through our studies is, the national legal framework is also at fault,  because the governments and the law don’t recognize the land rights of the people.  Therefore the companies are coming in;  the conflicts are proliferating.  So, we’re also calling on the government to reform their national laws to recognize rights,” commented Colchester.

The publication, “Conflict or Consent? The Oil Palm Sector at a Crossroads,” not only documents human rights violations, but hopes to bring added attention to the need for world leaders to include human rights violations in their plans of addressing deforestation and land degradation.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid