Palm oil production has had devastating effects in South East Asia. With palm oil producers looking to aggressively expand their operations in West and Central Africa, this project aims to raise awareness of the negative impacts and ensure Africa does not experience similar problems.
With our work on palm oil developments in the Congo Basin we aim to highlight that large- scale economic activities must take place in a framework of equitable development, respect to forest peoples’ rights and environmental sustainability. In other parts of the world, the cost of industrial palm oil production to forests and peoples has far outstripped its benefits. We must not let this happen again.
This project began in 2014 with field investigations in Congo and Gabon and advocacy at regional level.
CED, OCDH, FGDH, Brainforest
- Some palm oil producers are looking to aggressively expand their operations in West and Central Africa. The growth of commercial oil palm plantations has been a major driver of deforestation, destruction of indigenous lands, loss of biodiversity and creation of carbon emissions in Southeast Asia in recent decades. It has also resulted in social conflicts and the loss of rights over territories by local and indigenous communities.
- The forests of the Congo Basin cover approximately 200 million hectares, host a wealth of biodiversity and store an estimated 25-30 gigatonnes of carbon. They also provide direct livelihood benefits for over 40 million people, including an estimated 500,000 indigenous forest peoples. Despite this, governments of the region are welcoming the investment of palm oil companies s to open new plantations.
- Some of the companies looking to develop palm oil production in the Congo Basin have been linked with environmental and social impacts in their existing production areas in South East Asia. In this region, up to 70% of oil palm plantations may have been established through forest clearance. The growth of large-scale palm oil production represents one of the main emerging threats to rainforests in Central Africa.
- To reduce the negative impacts on forest communities due to the expansion of industrial palm oil plantations in the Congo Basin.
- To increase transparency and raise awareness of the potential negative environmental and social impacts related to the expansion of palm oil in the Congo Basin among the international donors, multilateral organisations, palm oil companies, national decision-makers and the media.
- To support Congo Basin NGOs and indigenous peoples’ organisations to advocate for improved environmental and social outcomes of industrial palm oil developments.
As a first step, RFUK will conduct field investigations on two palm oil projects in the region, in order to assess their social and environmental impacts on the ground, as well as the gaps in implementation of national law and international standards where applicable in relation to these two projects.
With this, we will look to inform national and international stakeholders, notably governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society, and to provide concrete recommendations on ways to harness these projects so that they truly foster local development, uphold rights and protect the environment.
This work will also feed into local partners’ advocacy strategies related to agro-industrial expansion, forest governance and indigenous and forest peoples’ rights. RFUK will support partners to develop and implement these strategies.
- RFUK has played an important role raising awareness of the imminent threat of palm oil expansion in the Congo Basin, mainly through the dissemination of the report Seeds of Destruction: Expansion of Industrial Oil Palm in the Congo Basin; Potential Impacts on Forests and People
- This report highlights the fact that in Congo we are still on time to prevent the social and environmental tragedies that South East Asia has experienced due to industrial palm oil production.