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  • Playing for keeps: How a simple board game could lead to more sustainable oil palm

Playing for keeps: How a simple board game could lead to more sustainable oil palm


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Once reserved for military war games, the Companion Modeling approach has been developed and expanded over the past two decades to include the complex issues of renewable resources and environmental management. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is part of a consortium of international institutions led by the Swiss-based University, ETH Zurich, that is using ComMod to help chart a path toward more sustainable palm oil as part of a six-year project called OPAL, Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes, being carried out in Cameroon, Colombia and Indonesia – some of the world’s biggest palm oil producers.

Originally published by CIFOR.

This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?


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A truck collects bunches of oil palm fruits in West Kalimantan, in the Indonesian part of Borneo. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

In 2014, many of the world’s major companies buying, trading or producing palm oil and pulp and paper made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘no deforestation’ commitments progressing, and what effect are they having on forests?

Using LANDSAT satellite data to observe annual changes in forest area and annual expansion of industrial plantations, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), are assessing the impact of corporate commitments to stop deforestation on the island of Borneo.

Borneo, a landmass shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. But forest fires and land conversion for logging, plantations and infrastructure development have reduced the island’s old-growth forest area by 30 percent since 1973.

Expansion of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper has been associated with significant forest loss in Borneo, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia as the world’s leading producers of palm oil.

The ongoing research is looking at how pledges to stop this trend are having an effect, both inside and outside of plantation concession areas.

David Gaveau, co-creator of the newly updated Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, has been working on developing tools for buyers, traders, producers, governments and consumers to track industrial agriculture supply chains in Borneo, and monitor their impact on forests. He sat down with Forests News this week to discuss ongoing research, and what he and his partners have found so far.

What does it mean for a company to make a ‘No deforestation’ commitment?

When we talk about deforestation-free palm oil or paper, we are talking about products that have not been extracted from plantations established in place of forests. That is, where no forests have been cleared and converted to plantations. What this means in practice is that the products should come from plantations established on lands that have been cleared for other reasons, for example by wildfire, such as degraded shrublands.

A large number of palm oil and paper buyers and traders have already pledged to source only deforestation-free palm oil or paper, and in turn, the largest palm oil and pulp and paper producers have promised to stop clearing forests to expand plantations. Some made this pledge in 2013, with immediate effect. So in our research, we have sought to analyze whether those pledges, made with immediate effect, reduced overall rates of forest loss in Borneo.

Read more: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

Why are companies making ‘No deforestation’ commitments? Does it have any effect on profits?

Companies are making these commitments under pressure from consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and now even financial markets. For far too long, extractive industries made profit without respecting the environment. Times are changing.

An oil palm worker cleans up the trees before fruit collection. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

How is a commitment monitored, and by whom?

Ideally, commitments should be monitored by tracking the palm oil back to the plantation where it was produced, and by verifying whether this plantation has been established at the expense of a forest, or whether it has replaced degraded, non-forested lands.

Have these pledges had an observable impact on deforestation rates in your research area in recent years?

Borneo is a major center for palm oil production. The area of industrial oil palm plantations in 2016 reached 8.3 million hectares — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 million hectares. Old-growth forest area losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016. By old-growth, we mean ancient forests that have never been impacted by humans, or forests impacted by timber extraction, but which have not been totally been cleared, and where the structure of a forest remains.

We showed in a paper published last year that the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area lost between 2005 to 2015. This number rises to 56 percent if we include pulpwood plantations. So, if producing companies stop clearing forests to expand plantations, deforestation should drop dramatically.

Our preliminary results from ongoing research suggest that recent corporate commitments to stop clearing forests in concessions of oil palm and pulpwood are associated with less conversion of forests to industrial plantations in Borneo, at least for oil palm and pulpwood.

We find that this company-driven deforestation peaked in concessions in 2009 and again in 2012, and has since been decreasing since 2012. In 2016, it had decelerated to 14-year low. This decreasing trend appears in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo, and suggests that ‘No Deforestation’ commitments have slowed forest conversion within concessions in both countries. But that is not the whole story.

Despite this positive finding, the area of forest cleared since 2013 has in fact increased in Borneo. In Kalimantan — Indonesian Borneo — in particular, forests in 2016 were cleared at the fastest rate since 1997, with nearly 400,000 hectares lost that year. Much of this deforestation was caused by uncontrolled El Niño fires during late 2015, but appeared in 2016 satellite data because of cloud cover.

We find that much of this deforestation occurred outside concessions, and on peatlands, highlighting the urgent need to prevent peatland fires in the future, and to find solutions to deforestation outside concessions, where companies do not have jurisdiction. We also see a troubling trend in concessions where a lot of forest remains. In those forest-rich concessions, company-driven deforestation has not slowed, suggesting that ‘business as usual’ has continued in undeveloped concessions.

Read more: Financing farmers: Can funds for oil palm help save our forests?

How do you measure or observe the impact of commitments on forests?

We have mapped then analyzed the area of forest converted each year to industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations from 2001 to 2016, looking mainly at land under company management – that is, concessions. We use LANDSAT satellite imagery to monitor the annual expansion of plantations.

We combine this information with annual maps of forest loss also derived using LANDSAT satellites by Matthew Hansen’s research group at the University of Maryland. The Hansen dataset, as we call it, produces very accurate tree loss maps over the humid tropics, and combined with a good forest mask, reveals where old-growth forests have been cleared.  However, this dataset does not tell us why forest has been cleared, or who cleared it.

By combining our annual maps of plantations with this forest loss dataset, we can extract the area of forest converted each year to industrial plantations by producing companies. This is what we call company-driven deforestation.

What about the effect outside of concession areas, or in nearby forests?

Deforestation caused by fire is even more dramatic in Borneo outside concessions, where it recently jumped by 400 percent to a 16-year high in 2016.

What plans do you have for researching this further, and drawing recommendations for action?

We now aim to understand other drivers of deforestation in the Borneo landscape. For example, we are quantifying the impacts of forest fires, and smallholder and mining activity. We aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of the human enterprise on Borneo forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss down to zero.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at d.gaveau@cgiar.org.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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  • Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?


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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A truck collects bunches of oil palm fruits in West Kalimantan, in the Indonesian part of Borneo. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

In 2014, many of the world’s major companies buying, trading or producing palm oil and pulp and paper made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘no deforestation’ commitments progressing, and what effect are they having on forests?

Using LANDSAT satellite data to observe annual changes in forest area and annual expansion of industrial plantations, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), are assessing the impact of corporate commitments to stop deforestation on the island of Borneo.

Borneo, a landmass shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. But forest fires and land conversion for logging, plantations and infrastructure development have reduced the island’s old-growth forest area by 30 percent since 1973.

Expansion of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper has been associated with significant forest loss in Borneo, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia as the world’s leading producers of palm oil.

The ongoing research is looking at how pledges to stop this trend are having an effect, both inside and outside of plantation concession areas.

David Gaveau, co-creator of the newly updated Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, has been working on developing tools for buyers, traders, producers, governments and consumers to track industrial agriculture supply chains in Borneo, and monitor their impact on forests. He sat down with Forests News this week to discuss ongoing research, and what he and his partners have found so far.

What does it mean for a company to make a ‘No deforestation’ commitment?

When we talk about deforestation-free palm oil or paper, we are talking about products that have not been extracted from plantations established in place of forests. That is, where no forests have been cleared and converted to plantations. What this means in practice is that the products should come from plantations established on lands that have been cleared for other reasons, for example by wildfire, such as degraded shrublands.

A large number of palm oil and paper buyers and traders have already pledged to source only deforestation-free palm oil or paper, and in turn, the largest palm oil and pulp and paper producers have promised to stop clearing forests to expand plantations. Some made this pledge in 2013, with immediate effect. So in our research, we have sought to analyze whether those pledges, made with immediate effect, reduced overall rates of forest loss in Borneo.

Read more: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

Why are companies making ‘No deforestation’ commitments? Does it have any effect on profits?

Companies are making these commitments under pressure from consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and now even financial markets. For far too long, extractive industries made profit without respecting the environment. Times are changing.

An oil palm worker cleans up the trees before fruit collection. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

How is a commitment monitored, and by whom?

Ideally, commitments should be monitored by tracking the palm oil back to the plantation where it was produced, and by verifying whether this plantation has been established at the expense of a forest, or whether it has replaced degraded, non-forested lands.

Have these pledges had an observable impact on deforestation rates in your research area in recent years?

Borneo is a major center for palm oil production. The area of industrial oil palm plantations in 2016 reached 8.3 million hectares — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 million hectares. Old-growth forest area losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016. By old-growth, we mean ancient forests that have never been impacted by humans, or forests impacted by timber extraction, but which have not been totally been cleared, and where the structure of a forest remains.

We showed in a paper published last year that the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area lost between 2005 to 2015. This number rises to 56 percent if we include pulpwood plantations. So, if producing companies stop clearing forests to expand plantations, deforestation should drop dramatically.

Our preliminary results from ongoing research suggest that recent corporate commitments to stop clearing forests in concessions of oil palm and pulpwood are associated with less conversion of forests to industrial plantations in Borneo, at least for oil palm and pulpwood.

We find that this company-driven deforestation peaked in concessions in 2009 and again in 2012, and has since been decreasing since 2012. In 2016, it had decelerated to 14-year low. This decreasing trend appears in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo, and suggests that ‘No Deforestation’ commitments have slowed forest conversion within concessions in both countries. But that is not the whole story.

Despite this positive finding, the area of forest cleared since 2013 has in fact increased in Borneo. In Kalimantan — Indonesian Borneo — in particular, forests in 2016 were cleared at the fastest rate since 1997, with nearly 400,000 hectares lost that year. Much of this deforestation was caused by uncontrolled El Niño fires during late 2015, but appeared in 2016 satellite data because of cloud cover.

We find that much of this deforestation occurred outside concessions, and on peatlands, highlighting the urgent need to prevent peatland fires in the future, and to find solutions to deforestation outside concessions, where companies do not have jurisdiction. We also see a troubling trend in concessions where a lot of forest remains. In those forest-rich concessions, company-driven deforestation has not slowed, suggesting that ‘business as usual’ has continued in undeveloped concessions.

Read more: Financing farmers: Can funds for oil palm help save our forests?

How do you measure or observe the impact of commitments on forests?

We have mapped then analyzed the area of forest converted each year to industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations from 2001 to 2016, looking mainly at land under company management – that is, concessions. We use LANDSAT satellite imagery to monitor the annual expansion of plantations.

We combine this information with annual maps of forest loss also derived using LANDSAT satellites by Matthew Hansen’s research group at the University of Maryland. The Hansen dataset, as we call it, produces very accurate tree loss maps over the humid tropics, and combined with a good forest mask, reveals where old-growth forests have been cleared.  However, this dataset does not tell us why forest has been cleared, or who cleared it.

By combining our annual maps of plantations with this forest loss dataset, we can extract the area of forest converted each year to industrial plantations by producing companies. This is what we call company-driven deforestation.

What about the effect outside of concession areas, or in nearby forests?

Deforestation caused by fire is even more dramatic in Borneo outside concessions, where it recently jumped by 400 percent to a 16-year high in 2016.

What plans do you have for researching this further, and drawing recommendations for action?

We now aim to understand other drivers of deforestation in the Borneo landscape. For example, we are quantifying the impacts of forest fires, and smallholder and mining activity. We aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of the human enterprise on Borneo forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss down to zero.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at d.gaveau@cgiar.org.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo


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A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at d.gaveau@cgiar.org or Mohammad A. Salim at m.salim@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo


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A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at d.gaveau@cgiar.org or Mohammad A. Salim at m.salim@cgiar.org.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


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  • Towards responsible and inclusive financing of the palm oil sector

Towards responsible and inclusive financing of the palm oil sector


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The global palm oil sector faces ongoing threats to sustainability caused by deforestation, peatland development, labor rights violations and land right conflicts. Additionally, integrating smallholders into sustainable palm oil supply chains continues to be a challenge for the industry. Financial service providers (FSPs) could play a role in stimulating sustainability commitments from the palm oil companies they finance. Their potential influence stems from their capacity to set environmental, social and governance (ESG) conditions for financial services.

This research shows that European and US FSPs are further along than their counterparts in Asia in adopting policies that include ESG risk assessments as part of the process for providing financial services. However, attention to smallholder inclusion is insufficient in the policies of all FSPs included in this report. Differences between European and US versus Asian FSPs in adopting ESG standards, as well as the unique markets they finance, present a risk that two parallel but separate financial systems could emerge. Efforts by both government and nongovernmental organizations should emphasize the prevention of a two-tiered marketplace with different quality requirements for palm oil.

All actors in this sector still require a significant shift in thinking on the benefits of including ESG standards in cultivation and production processes. In palm oil producing countries, the lack of specific banking regulations emphasizing sustainability concerns regarding the sector forms a further hindrance to positive developments.


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  • Smallholder finance in the oil palm sector: Analyzing the gaps between existing credit schemes and smallholder realities

Smallholder finance in the oil palm sector: Analyzing the gaps between existing credit schemes and smallholder realities


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There are about 2 million smallholders cultivating 40% of Indonesia’s oil palm area. They require significant financing to establish, maintain and replant their oil palm plantations, in order to both increase productivity and improve the quality of the fresh fruit bunches. Their capacity to self-finance their plantation is limited. However, most of them are credit-constrained.

Since the late 1970s, the Government of Indonesia has introduced a number of credit schemes for oil palm smallholders. Banks and other formal institutions have also been offering various credit schemes in terms of the amount, grace period and requirements for smallholders, both individually or in groups.

Through interviews and focus group discussions in two districts, each in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, we found four gaps: (1) demand–-supply gaps; (2) maturity gaps; (3) risk-sharing gaps; and (4) legal gaps. Demand-–supply gaps exist where credit applications by oil palm smallholders were not approved because of issues related to collateral requirements, credit amounts, and crop gestation periods. Maturity gaps exist when only few financing schemes consider a grace period for smallholders to wait for the first harvest. Risk-sharing gaps refer to the volatility in production costs and palm oil prices that smallholders have to bear. Many smallholders do not hold proper documentation, which leads to the legal gaps that prevent them from using their land as collateral to access credit from banks.

These gaps reduce the possibility of smallholders accessing credit from formal institutions, which drives an informal local lending market with limited credit amounts and higher interest rates. The government and financial institutions must address these gaps in order to improve formal credit access for smallholder oil palm farmers.


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  • Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?

Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?


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Firefighters put out a fire spreading in Sebangau national park, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR
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Haze from forest fires blankets the landscape in Riau, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

In Indonesia, few have forgotten the devastating peatland fires and suffocating haze that afflicted the greater region for several months over 2014-2015.

Agricultural fires across Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua at that time claimed millions of hectares of land and tens of thousands of lives, as toxic smoke spread across the country, reaching as far as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo responded by placing a total nationwide ban on the clearing or burning of peatlands, and formed the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) to replenish damaged land.

But for this complex issue involving multiple stakeholders — from government agencies to researchers, multinational companies to smallholder farmers and communities — work on the ground to prevent future disaster is still just beginning.

More than 300 representatives from various sectors came together to discuss ways to strengthen local laws and learn from ground-level experience at a national policy dialogue in Pekanbaru last month, hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau, and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

The dialogue on Laws and Best Practices for Reducing Fire and Haze invited participants to share both challenges and success stories in breaking the dangerous annual cycle.

Read more: Fighting fires with academic narrative

LAW OF THE LAND

Army officers and firefighters try to extinguish fires in peatland in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The president’s decree on peatlands set the tone nationally for a change in land management practices. But research has found that local laws — issued at the provincial, regency or city level — can have even greater impact in reducing the risk of disaster.

Yulwiriawati Moesa, Head of the Riau Forestry and Environment Agency, reminded participants in the dialogue of a provincial regulation issued last year on the protection and management of peatlands, and said work was ongoing to fully implement it on the ground.

Nonetheless, she praised efforts that have so far prevented another major disaster.

“The province of Riau has managed to overcome the threat of a fire and haze disaster these past two years, after 18 years in shackles,” she said in her opening remarks.

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo recommended that any new legislation in the province or elsewhere should be based on scientific evidence and support community-level action for fire prevention and land restoration.

“We are happy that our research outputs can be used by all stakeholders to inform public debate, policies, regulations and best practices,” he said.

Watch: Fire and haze: Laws and regulations

COMMUNITY ACTION

Effective work is being carried out at the ground level by local people, including farmers, landowners and volunteer fire fighters.

Rozi, head of the Fire Awareness Community (MPA) in Dompas village, Bengkalis regency, leads regular patrols to catch fires before they burn out of control, and works together with his community to re-green and re-wet degraded peatlands, including by blocking canals to allow water to return to the land.

He regularly catches small fires started by cigarette butts or mosquito coils, particularly in the dry season.

Firefighters put out a fire spreading in Sebangau national park, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

“When we go on patrol, we don’t get paid,” he said on the sidelines of the dialogue. “But in villages where there are no patrols, there’s sure to be fire.”

“It’s hard to convince others to join the patrols because it means they can’t take on other work that day, they don’t get paid, and then they can’t feed their families. Economic issues are our main obstacles,” he added.

Ongoing work in collaboration with CIFOR scientists is bringing water back to dry peatlands by blocking canals that were dug to drain them in the first place. The practice of draining and burning peatlands to clear land for agriculture is a major cause of deforestation, land degradation and fires in Riau.

THE BUSINESS OF BURNING

Recent decades have seen millions of hectares of peatlands converted to agricultural land, often for plantations of cash crops such as oil palm. The most cost-effective method to clear large areas of peatland is by burning, but as the 2014-2015 crisis shows, it cannot be considered a sustainable option.

Bambang Setiadi from Indonesia’s National Research Council said the damaging practice of peatland burning started in Kalimantan in the 1990s, and was transferred to other parts of the country like Riau and Palembang.

But as a peatland expert himself, Bambang warns that there is no sound scientific basis for draining and burning peatlands, and that the “bad science” of the 1990s must be stopped.

“Drying out peatlands is the first mistake, since about 95 percent of peat is water,” he said in an interview at the dialogue. “You can see the effects of this in places like Banjarmasin and Pontianak, which never had floods in the past, but now when it rains these cities are inundated.”

He said that businesses still using burning as a method to clear land must be held accountable to government regulations.

“These businesses say, ‘But I pay tax, I employ people’. These kinds of battles go on. But I say to them, ‘If you were conducting your business in the proper way, we wouldn’t have seen the kinds of fires we had in 2015’.”

Read more: Can communities and lawmakers stop Indonesian peat fires?

Tiur Rumondang, Director of Indonesia Operations for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said that burning is absolutely banned for companies aiming to comply with its standards and criteria.

“It’s what we call ‘major non-compliance’. If a company did this, we would consider it a major violation,” she said.

Iman Santoso from the Indonesian Forestry Business Association (APHI) said the responsibility of stopping fires extends from companies and smallholders to all stakeholders involved in and affected by forestry and land-use decisions.

“Forestry cannot be regarded as an issue for foresters alone. Just as security cannot be considered solely the responsibility of the army, but as a task for the entire nation,” he said.

“That’s why the Indonesian Forestry Business Association is happy to be finally implementing a landscape approach to optimize land use in landscapes that have multiple uses — not just for pulp and paper, not just for palm oil, but for all local crops that already exist there. As a consequence, we need to involve multiple actors, multiple disciplines and multiple sectors in finding solutions.”

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at h.purnomo@cgiar.org.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).


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  • Fire and haze: Laws and regulations

Fire and haze: Laws and regulations


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Local laws and regulations banning the clearing and burning of peatlands have sprung up across Indonesia since President Joko Widodo issued a decree on the matter in late 2015.

The president’s order came in response to the annual practice of agricultural burning, particularly during the dry season, which reached crisis proportions in 2014-2015, sparking a regional environmental and public health disaster. Draining and burning peatlands and peat forests to make way for agriculture – including cash crops of oil palm, and pulp and paper – is now banned, with efforts being made to prevent future disasters, as well as restore degraded land.

Research has found that local laws – issued at the provincial, regency or city level – can have even greater impact that national laws in reducing the risk of disaster. A national policy dialogue hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with the University of Riau last month brought together more than 300 stakeholders from government, research, business, communities and more to discuss sustainable solutions for a fire-free future.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).


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  • The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil


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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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A worker collects oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding a way forward for profits, people and the planet.

The polemic around the expansion of oil palm plantations in the tropics continues, and increasingly involves consumers concerned with sustainability. At the core of the debate is the matter of hard trade-offs between conservation and development. Reconciling such trade-offs is still the major challenge facing governments and companies.

Available evidence suggests that palm oil production has contradictory impacts. It has positive impacts on both local and national economic growth, and in alleviating rural poverty. Yet plantations also drive social conflict in their development, and bring detriment to forests and peatlands as they expand, leading to negative impacts due to biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The palm oil sector suffers from three performance issues, namely: land conflicts between local villagers and companies as well as immigrants, differences in yields between independent smallholders and industrial plantations, and a large carbon debt resulting from oil palm expansion into forestlands and peatlands. The challenge now is to find a way to ensure sustainable palm oil supply chains, in order to sustain economic gains while supporting conservation and climate action.

Employees drive to work on a plantation. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AIMING FOR CHANGE

Efforts are being made by governments, companies and civil society organizations on different fronts and at different levels to enhance the palm oil sector’s performance. Commitments to sustainability made by major palm oil companies have been accompanied by a more aggressive sustainability discourse by governments, and many civil society organizations have begun to play a new role as facilitators in the implementation of standards by companies, or as intermediaries between private and public actors.

In Indonesia, the previous government made important efforts to respond to the global climate change agenda, resulting in a moratorium on new licenses to develop primary forest or peatlands, which unfortunately in practice had limited impacts on reducing deforestation. The major corporate groups, through the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) brought some new perspectives to halting deforestation through supply chain interventions, yet interestingly that triggered a strong political response from the government on the primacy of state regulations.

Two new fronts have since emerged. On one front, efforts are being made to enhance mandatory standards for sustainability by strengthening Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification, accompanied by regulations on peatland intervention and restoration. On another front are efforts to safeguard the economic performance of the palm oil sector by expanding the domestic biodiesel market and applying subsidies to incentivize less competitive biodiesel production. In spite of strong arguments being made in favor of a social agenda, investments to support smallholders remain minimal.

An interesting turn of events has been the approval of an EU resolution suggesting that stronger constraints should apply to palm oil imports. This is not necessarily an opinion shared by some actors in Indonesia, who emphasize the importance of relying on national regulations. Signals have emerged that the government will be making the necessary steps to more fully embrace a sustainability framework. So far, the instrument for that seems to be a strengthened ISPO, with independent oversight. However, questions remain over the likely implementation costs, and institutional readiness at the local level.

Read also: Sustainable Palm Oil Production project synthesis: Understanding and anticipating global challenges

A young woman carries a bucket of harvested oil palm fruit. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

WHOSE SUSTAINABILITY?

The dispute over which rules to follow, whether it be international private sustainability standards and/or methods toward zero deforestation, or mandatory national standards has brought to light competing notions of sustainability, how to achieve progress, and who should be taking the lead.

A policy network analysis of the palm oil sector in Indonesia suggests that standards and initiatives for sustainability have contrasting visibility and impact among stakeholders, for example among governments, the corporate sector and NGOs. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), stands as a reference, while efforts by the Indonesian government to promote its own standard with ISPO have yet to gain traction. Hopes remain that it could benefit from an emerging multi-stakeholder group.

Overall, the lack of progress in the uptake of sustainable palm oil practices on the ground, in the view of different stakeholders, appears to be caused more by political and legal barriers than by technical challenges or concerns for economic losses. The fact is that the palm oil sector, particularly in relation to land allocation and regulatory controls, is dominated by a complex and ambiguous layer of regulations. When we add vested local interests in profiting from plantation expansion, we are left with a difficult puzzle indeed.

The situation also calls for increased efforts to enforce regional initiatives on High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments to guide decisions on land-use planning, as well as efforts to support smallholders within wider landscapes. This is all the more important when considering proposals for limiting the expansion of concessions across the country without addressing existing concessions (‘land banks’) that are partially covered by standing natural forests, and placing little regulatory control on the additional pressures of smallholders on forest conversion.

A young man uses a contraption to harvest fruit from the oil palms. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Clearly, improvements are needed in communication and transparency among stakeholders, not only to raise the bar of sustainability beyond existing ISPO requirements and to provide a more conducive environment for corporate commitments, but also to enhance the rule of law and improve governance. Legality and law enforcement are absolute prerequisites for cleaning the sector of its worst players and practices.

THE COMPLEXITIES OF PALM OIL GOVERNANCE

Governance of the palm oil sector is becoming more complex over time. In addition to national regulations, it involves a transnational regime in the form of RSPO standards, which are widely accepted by the private sector as the benchmark criteria for sustainability, at least by players downstream the supply chain. Different initiatives by financial institutions and governments in consumer countries, grouped under the Amsterdam Declaration, as well the industry-led European Sustainable Palm Oil initiative (ESPO), are endorsing RSPO as a way to ensure uptake of sustainable practices.

Major corporate groups have also adopted individual and collective commitments to sustainability. Some of these commitments rely on RSPO as the privileged system to demonstrate achievements. Commitments to zero deforestation tend to make explicit their own criteria, targets and timeframes, which in some cases are rather ambiguous. In the palm oil sector, they often make use of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) as the approach to identifying forests to be protected.

As mentioned, the Indonesian government has embarked on a mission of strengthening ISPO, which originally emerged as a bundle of existing public regulations on palm oil production grouped under one instrument. However, doubts over ISPO’s effectiveness and slow implementation have forced the government to put in place a process to improve the scheme’s legitimacy, such as by drawing on a multi-stakeholder group, and conducting an ongoing consultation process to overcome the main design shortcomings. Much of the credibility of ISPO will nonetheless rely on how far it manages to closes the gaps with RSPO, particularly with regards to HCV and FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent).

Due to the growing complexity of palm oil governance, what we have now are three simultaneous processes for moving toward sustainable palm oil that intersect, but in different ways. One is interested in “sustainable supply”, triggered by RSPO, another is interested in “clean supply”, motivated by private commitments to zero deforestation, and the third aims to achieve “legal supply”, supported by government through a strengthened ISPO. This creates some confusion, and it is not clear what the implications are of each on the move toward sustainability.

Read also: What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm?

Bunches of oil palm fruit await transportation in a wheelbarrow. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

THE CHALLENGE OF INCLUDING SMALLHOLDERS

In this order of things, many independent oil palm smallholders are threatened with becoming alienated from formal markets because they lack the technical capacity and/or resources to comply with public and private sustainability standards. Thus, a major challenge is to find ways to improve conditions for smallholders in accessing finance and technical services.

Since resolving compliance barriers will require targeted interventions, it is becoming increasingly important to better understand the types of barriers faced by different types of smallholders. Research conducted in Riau, and in Central and West Kalimantan, highlights the sustainability, legality and productivity challenges arising from independent smallholder oil palm expansion. Gendered impacts of oil palm development also deserve special consideration, given the additional burden on women.

Understanding who smallholders are is important, since it has become the case that frontier expansion is often driven by larger, out-of-province and absentee farmers who engage in oil palm for investment purposes, rather than by smaller farmers (for example, with plots less than three hectares in area) who are dependent primarily on household labor. Some of this expansion is associated with land speculation, as a way to appropriate economic rents under the expectation of a future increase in the commercial value of cleared lands.

Tenure legality issues – faced especially by smallholders whose oil palm operations more closely resemble that of businesses – constitute the most significant compliance challenge. There is an ongoing debate over how to deal with illegality and to channel financial resources and technical support, not only to regulate oil palm expansion, but to enhance the performance of smallholders.

ADDRESSING CRITICAL CHALLENGES

Different and complementary initiatives are emerging to address performance issues in the sector. These embrace three broad objectives, namely: to implement traceability systems while overcoming challenges to involve smallholders; to refine and harmonize sustainability standards and tools; and to reconcile supply chain and landscape management approaches.

Enhancing traceability and smallholder inclusion

Major corporate groups in the palm oil sector are developing traceability systems to monitor and verify their performance with respect to their commitments to zero deforestation. Given the challenges to smallholder inclusion in this context, a number of companies and NGOs are collaborating to develop new business models and value chain strategies to support the inclusion of smallholders and enhance their compliance capacity. This is a work in progress.

Refining and harmonizing sustainability standards and tools

The most relevant process in this regard has been the HCS Convergence Agreement, which harmonizes methodologies to estimate high carbon stocks, and complements HCV with HCS. Other ongoing initiatives include RSPO Next, which is a set of advanced, add-on criteria for palm-oil growers seeking to comply with the aims of “no deforestation, no fire, no planting on peat, reduction of GHGs, and respect for human rights and transparency”, as well as efforts to strengthen ISPO. A major issue is how to implement on-the-ground standards that are increasingly demanding technically, and for which there are no institutional conditions, such as legality.

Reconciling supply chain interventions and landscape management

The private sector and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging that progress will only be piecemeal if underlying structural issues affecting the palm oil sector are not comprehensively addressed. Supporting efforts in specific jurisdictions to identify and register smallholder lands, and to promote district-level monitoring, reporting and verification of land-use change, are being undertaken as part of wider jurisdictional-based initiatives, emerging as a way to scale up innovations and solutions. These approaches may have potential, but have yet to prove their effectiveness.

Watch: Sustainable development of Cameroon’s palm oil

Workers take before fertilizing the next line of trees. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

LIKELY FUTURES OF OIL PALM EXPANSION

Different futures are possible for oil palm expansion, with diverse consequences for development and conservation and their trade-offs. All depends on how far the government and the private sector will go in embracing their sustainability policies, and how effectively they are implemented and monitored.

The most likely scenarios are: 1) a business-as-usual scenario, in which oil palm plantations continue to expand at the current rate; 2) a moratorium scenario, in which the government applies increasing constraints to development on primary and secondary forests and peatlands; 3) a zero-deforestation scenario, in which deforestation is completely stopped in oil palm concessions; and 4) a sustainable intensification scenario, in which expansion continues on suitable lands, with greater social inclusion.

Emerging findings from scenario analysis in Central Kalimantan, when looking at the impacts of oil palm expansion on ecosystem services (comprising carbon stock and storage, habitat quality, water yield and palm oil production), suggest that the zero-deforestation scenario is the most desirable option. This scenario, however, requires a review of the forest moratorium that should encompass all forest types, as well as a clear land-use policy, strategy and detailed land-use plan involving all jurisdictions and stakeholders. The next most desirable scenario is sustainable intensification that would avoid the release of carbon, while continuing to contribute to increased palm oil supply resulting from enhanced yields.

When looking at Indonesia as a whole, scenario research suggests that zero-deforestation commitments and the moratorium on large-scale oil palm plantation expansion could reduce deforestation by 25% and 28%, respectively. These measures could also cut GHG emissions from land-use change by 13% and 16%, respectively, over the period 2010–2030. Even under the zero-deforestation and moratorium scenarios, Indonesia is projected to increase palm oil supply between 97% to 124% over 2010–2030, partly due to higher production originating from smallholders. Both measures – zero-deforestation commitments and a moratorium on large-scale expansion – would limit future deforestation in Indonesia, while maintaining the country’s leading role in the global palm oil market.

Foresight analysis is key in the debate on sustainable palm oil development. It can provide data and information to allow for evidence-based policy making. Public and private decision-makers, and multi-stakeholder initiatives should pay more attention to likely futures analysis to guide their decisions on action to reduce deforestation and GHG emissions, while finding options to improve productivity, legality and inclusion in the palm oil sector, with solutions that are acceptable to all stakeholders, and the wider society.

By Pablo Pacheco, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Pablo Pacheco at p.pacheco@cgiar.org.


This research is supported by USAID funding for CIFOR’s Governing Oil Palm Landscapes for Sustainability (GOLS) project, and this work is partly funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development KNOWFOR Program Grant to CIFOR.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is funded by CGIAR Fund Donors.


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  • Sustainable development of Cameroon's palm oil

Sustainable development of Cameroon’s palm oil


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Cameroon’s tropical climate provides the perfect conditions for growing oil palm. The high-yield crop is liked by industrial farmers and smallholders, but some are concerned that vast plantations could undermine food security and prevent local families from getting the food they need.

Originally published by CIFOR.


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  • Can communities and lawmakers stop Indonesian peatfires?

Can communities and lawmakers stop Indonesian peatfires?


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CIFOR's scientist Herry Purnomo with the community group and government representative of Bengkalis, Riau, at the sagoo planting site. This is one of the efforts to keep peatland from fires. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
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CIFOR’s scientist Herry Purnomo with the community group and government representative of Bengkalis, Riau, at the sagoo planting site. This is one of the efforts to keep peatland from fires. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

By Rose Foley, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

On the outskirts of Dompas village in Riau province, a group of men is peeling back the black earth with rhythmic strokes. Armed with hoes, they move slowly in the afternoon sunshine, sliding scores of thick-set seedlings into the ground, one by one. These baby sago palms are being planted on Indonesian peatlands that are degraded, drying and highly vulnerable to fire.

However, the canal that once ran along the edge of this plantation and sapped the site of its water and vital nutrients, has now been transformed into a deep mirror. Blocked by villagers with a series of small concrete dams, it is now feeding resources back into the soil.

Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have been working with the local community for several months, advising on measures to tackle peatland fires.

“Riau province has the most frequent fires in the whole of Indonesia,” says scientist Herry Purnomo, who runs the project for CIFOR. “These blazes are contributing to climate change and the smoke causes serious public health issues.”

Canal-blocking and crop planting serve important practical purposes. Dried or degraded peatlands are highly flammable due to their high carbon content. They are often set alight by companies and individuals to make way for more financially lucrative palm oil plantations. By encouraging communities to rewet the degraded land by blocking canals and replanting native vegetation that they can sell and eat, a viable economic and environmental alternative is introduced.

Aerial view of canal blocking in Dompas, Riau.
Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

DEEPER IMPACT

However, this particular project also serves a wider purpose. It plays a vital role in an investigation by CIFOR into the deeper economic, social and political reasons behind the fires in Riau.


New research shows that local elites often control and exploit peatland fires, siphoning off the majority of earned profits. This, combined with complex systems of patronage, lack of law enforcement, and few resources allocated centrally, mean that the Indonesian government’s attempts to address the problem of forest and land fires over the past 18 years have been severely hampered.

The study suggests a number of ways to help overcome this stalemate. One of them is to introduce local laws at both district and provincial levels to hold individuals and companies accountable. National laws are often poorly implemented and, up until now, other measures have been largely nonexistent.

“We should not rely on national initiatives only,” says Purnomo. “Legislation adopted at the local level is closer to the community and is much more likely to be enforced and have a positive impact on the ground.”

CIFOR’s consulations on canal-blocking and crop planting are designed to show communities the kind of fire prevention and peatland restoration work that a new law could help fund and enforce. They are also an excellent opportunity for researchers to seek local views on how to stop fires and what measures would be helpful to include in the local laws.

DEVELOPING LOCAL LAWS

The process of developing local laws in Riau first began in February 2016, focusing on two sets of legislation for the district level in Bengkalis and the provincial level in Riau. A large number of concerned parties were consulted – from parliament members to NGOs, academics, farmers, government and the private sector.

Each constituency has its own view on what the laws need to address. Local communities asked for provision for fire prevention tools like pumps and water cannons. Others asked for clear prohibitions on burning, for the law to be binding and for it to be tied to the existing national legislation. CIFOR’s research findings on issues like the economic incentives for peatland fires and restoration, de-facto mapping of land at local level and canal blocking and peat restoration costs, also fed into the process.

Overwhelmingly, all groups asked for a clear budget to be allocated for fire prevention and restoration work. Complaints ranged from the police saying they do not have the budget to investigate fires to local communities saying they do not have the resources to invest in fire-fighting kits or alternative ways of making a living.

“I asked local authorities why they are not giving money to fire prevention and they said there is no obligation by law,” says Purnomo. “No one is telling them that they have to allocate sufficient money for peat restoration, mapping, law enforcement.”

The draft laws, incorporating all of these elements, are now with parliamentarians. Purnomo hopes that they will be passed by the end of 2017. Jambi is currently the only province that has comparable legislation.


Back in Dompas, even local politicians, the police chief and the provincial parliamentarian have pitched in with the sago palm project. 800 seedlings have been planted in total.

However, as long as agricultural land remains more profitable than forest land, and the power structures ruled by local elites maintain an iron grip, huge challenges remain to stopping peatland fires.

“There is support from the community in Dompas, but this is just one site,” says Purnomo. “We hope the laws will lead to more actions on peat restoration and canal-blocking all over the province and that we will see the development of more local laws in other areas across Indonesia.”


For more information on this topic, please contact Herry Purnomo at h.purnomo@cgiar.org.

This research was supported by DFID-KNOWFOR

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  • “Not just another report, sitting on a shelf”: new findings on gender in oil palm.

“Not just another report, sitting on a shelf”: new findings on gender in oil palm.


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Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

By Bimbika Sijapati-Basnett and Leona Liu

Oil palm expansion threatens to displace local women from the lands where they cultivate their food crops, and this way help to feed their families. Furthermore, the women´s work contributions to oil palm production are largely unrecognized, and in the rare cases that they are, women are overrepresented in the ‘casual worker’ category, with limited entitlement to decent working conditions. Finally, gender issues are not considered in policies, certification bodies and regulations in the sector.

The objective of the ongoing research by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with the University of Indonesia and the University of Brighton, is to point out the critical roles that women play as members of local communities, members of smallholder households, and investors.

The researchers furthermore hope to raise awareness on gender issues in oil palm, as mentioned by Bimbika Sijapati-Basnett, Scientist and Gender Coordinator at CIFOR: “We really don’t want this research to be just another report that sits on the shelf. Our hope is to raise awareness about what constitutes key gender issues in the current debate about sustainable oil palm, and to make sure that women’s rights are safeguarded.”

Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Scientists point out that oil palm offers both challenges and opportunities for these diverse groups of women and their families. And yet, the emerging policy discussions related to sustainability of oil palm supply chains, inclusion of smallholders, promotion of rights of workers and indigenous peoples need to better consider gender as a key cross-cutting issue. Stakeholders should also strive for greater gender equality and women’s empowerment through proposed policies and actions in the sector.

One of the outcomes of the research is laid out in this infobrief, offering 1) recommendations to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) on how to develop mechanisms for addressing gender inequities in oil palm and 2) lessons for other certification standards such as Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO).

Another main outcome is a recent policy dialogue held at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. In this dialogue, key players involved in oil palm in Indonesia highlighted the need for equal rights and opportunities for women and men. Furthermore did the panelists stress the need for women to have a bigger say in decisions related to land, employment and smallholder inclusion.

Watch the video

Transforming the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for greater gender equality and women’s empowerment

Social impacts of oil palm in Indonesia: A gendered perspective from West Kalimantan

This research is funded by the UK Department of International Development, the United States Agency for International Development, Rights and Resources Initiative, Oxfam and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


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Call for equal rights and opportunities for women in oil palm


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Jakarta, 3 March 2017 – Key players involved in oil palm in Indonesia highlighted the need for equal rights and opportunities for women and men. Panelists at a policy dialogue on gender and oil palm today outlined the need for women to have a bigger say in decisions related to land, employment and smallholder inclusion.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with the University of Indonesia and the University of Brighton, organized a discussion bringing together multiple actors related to the oil palm sector. Advocacy organizations, certification bodies, government agencies, indigenous communities, private sector representatives, researchers and women’s rights groups discussed the challenges and opportunities that oil palm represents for women.

“Today’s dialogue shows that there is interest across the board on improving gender equality throughout the oil palm value chain and certification process,” said Dr. Bimbika Sijapati-Basnett, Scientist and Gender Coordinator at CIFOR. “Today wasn’t just about discussing problems but also about identifying workable solutions that will have real impact on the ground.”

Research conclusions

Ongoing research by CIFOR points to the critical roles that women play as workers, smallholders and investors. However, gender issues are not considered in policies, certification bodies and regulations in the sector.

Oil palm expansion threatens to displace local women from their land, on which they cultivate food crops. Women’s work and contributions to oil palm production are largely unrecognized. When they are, women are overrepresented in the ‘casual worker’ category, with limited entitlement to decent working conditions.

This research is funded by the UK Department of International Development, the United States Agency for International Development, Rights and Resources Initiative, Oxfam and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


RELATED RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS:
Transforming the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for greater gender equality and women’s empowerment
Social impacts of oil palm in Indonesia: A gendered perspective from West Kalimantan

PHOTOS AVAILABLE:
Gender and oil palm oil in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Photos of policy dialogue event (on demand).

VIDEOS AVAILABLE:
Gender and palm oil: Science in the field
Gender and palm oil: Staying independent
Gender and palm oil: Working together as a couple
Gender and palm oil: A day in the life of a female palm oil worker


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Linking sustainable supply, inclusive business models and innovative finance


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Pressures on forests and lands forests and lands are increasing as the world population and economies keep growing. Oil palm workers in Indonesia returning home. Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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Pressures on forests and lands forests and lands are increasing as the world population and economies keep growing. Oil palm workers in Indonesia returning home. Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

By Pablo Pacheco, Team Leader – Value Chains, Finance, & Investments, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Coordinator of Flagship 3

Pressures on forests and lands are increasing as the world population and economies keep growing. This pressure also leads to better solutions from public and private actors to enhance sustainable supply mechanisms and integrate smallholders in supply chains. In this context, Flagship 3 Sustainable global value chains and investments for supporting forest conservation and equitable development embraces the challenge of researching and providing options of how value chains and investments can be made more sustainable and inclusive, and leverage the potential of finance for scaling up.

In 2017, Flagship 3 will identify knowledge gaps, distill best practices, produce methods and tools, convene stakeholder meetings, engage in business and multi-stakeholder platforms, support learning initiatives, and co-generate options of policies and practices to:

  • Improve the sustainability of forests, agricultural and tree-crops production in forest landscapes by identifying complementarities between public regulations on the one hand, and private standards and commitments on the other hand;
  • Inform businesses and service providers about business models that are more inclusive, gender-responsive, economically viable and environmentally sustainable;
  • Increase investment flows in forest and tree-crop sectors by helping develop innovative finance mechanisms to support smallholders and small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).

The three groups of activities we embrace have interconnected goals and approaches. The first goal examines the policy and institutional environment shaping the governance of supply chains, with special emphasis on supply chain and territorial interventions.

Assessing the impacts of certification standards in cacao and coffee is part of the work on value chains.Photo: Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The second goal focuses on business models in timber and tree-crop value chains that link corporations with smallholder farmers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The third goal assesses how the financial sector influences the social and environmental performance of value chains and businesses, and how innovative finance provides opportunities for smallholders and SMEs.

Enhancing public and private arrangements for sustainable supply

Research under this theme will equip farmers, businesses and the public sector with knowledge of institutional arrangements and management systems to produce agricultural crops and manage forests in more integrated and sustainable ways—and in compliance with social and environmental standards.

We will focus our efforts on producing synthesis to engage in two international processes (e.g. FLEGT, zero deforestation) and to inform two regional/national policy dialogues on the public-private governance mechanisms that are needed to enhance sustainable supply in order to ease the pressures on forests. Our primary focus will be on timber in Central Africa and oil palm in Southeast Asia.

Timber is another key commodity in this research area. Photo: Tomas Munita/CIFOR

We will complete analysis on the governance of timber value chains (Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda) and of palm oil in Indonesia, and link analysis on the connections between global sustainability processes (e.g. FLEGT VPA, RSPO, ESPO) with national regulations and initiatives to enhance sustainable supply in the timber and oil palm sectors.

More complex policy regimes are emerging linking public regulations and private standards, yet there is need to connect them and build complementarities between them.

We are also supporting the development of monitoring tools and approaches to assess progress in performance of corporate commitments to sustainability with focus on oil palm, cacao and timber. We are also assessing the impacts of certification standards in cacao and coffee.

Supporting initiatives to foster the development of inclusive business models

Better knowledge is needed on how to build business options and fair partnerships that create opportunities for smallholder farmers who are increasingly involved in global value chains. This research also aims at safeguarding the rights of marginalized groups such as women and indigenous people.

We will advance work on inclusive business models by operationalizing a strategic partnership with the Dutch development organization SNV. This partnership is aimed at building and testing approaches and interventions that improve the effectiveness of inclusive business models across several SNV projects. In addition, we will support ongoing multi-stakeholder processes for strengthening capacities and policy environments for smallholders and SMEs in the timber and oil palm sectors in some select countries and landscapes.

Our main efforts will be on assessing the technical and economic performance of independent oil palm smallholders in West and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia and of outgrower schemes implemented in the oil palm and sugarcane sectors across some select countries (e.g. Brazil, Tanzania and Mozambique). This will yield some recommendations on building more inclusive models.

We are also working on developingapproaches to design project interventions that consider the specific needs of women and youth in more inclusive business models.

Engaging with responsible finance institutions and impact investors

We want to build bridges to connect responsible financial institutions and innovative financing mechanisms with smallholders and land users in forest landscapes. The goal here is to embrace more sustainable practices and inclusive business models under reduced financial and territorial risks, and to achieve greater social benefits for smallholders and SMEs accessing those financial resources.

Our work on finance and investments, with support from our partners (e.g. The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, FAST), will engage key financial institutions and impact investment funds and managers to identify the demand for responsible finance and their challenges to undertake investments at scale especially in forest landscapes.

We will focus on identifying existing schemes and demand for responsible finance and impact investment, and their challenges. Besides that, we will advance studies on palm oil in Indonesia and cacao in Ghana related to innovative finance schemes to overcome barriers facing smallholders who want to take up more efficient and sustainable practices. This work has the potential to trigger transformational change.

 


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