Only a decade ago, palm-oil plantations appeared likely to devastate the Africa’s tropical forests, repeating the pattern of ecological destruction they brought to Malaysia and Indonesia — including this year’s epic rainforest fires.
Yet African community organizing has turned back the tide of the slash-and-burn agriculture that comes with palm oil.
Exhibit A is the $5 billion Malaysian company Sime Darby, which gained a massive, 63-year concession in Liberia to develop industrial palm oil plantations.
Nine years later, the company is backing out in the face of organized local opposition — for “failing to secure consent from community members, undercompensating them for destroyed crops, and clearing areas used for religious rituals,” as well as the massive damage that land-clearing would have done to local biodiversity.
One analysis commissioned by the advocacy group Global Witness found that a proposed palm oil plantation in Liberia would cost locals US$7.3 million in value from the farming, hunting and building supplies they’d access from the existing regional ecosystem. The plantation itself would only add US$3.8 million to the local economy.
Faced with these shortcomings, at least 27 palm-oil plantations have failed around Africa.
Sources: Mongabay, Quartz