With our work on palm oil in the Congo Basin we aim to highlight that large-scale development projects must not overshadow forest peoples’ rights and environmental sustainability.
In other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, the cost of industrial palm oil production to forests and peoples has far outstripped its benefits. We must not let this happen again in Africa and elsewhere.
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 to open new plantations. The growth of large-scale palm oil production represents one of the main emerging threats to rainforests in Central Africa.
Some palm oil producers are looking to aggressively expand their operations in West and Central Africa. Governments support this, seeing agro-industrial expansion as a means to foster development.
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. It has also resulted in social conflicts and the loss of rights over territories by local and indigenous communities.
Focusing on the Congo Basin, we are working with local partners to investigate the impact of palm oil plantations and other industrial developments on both local communities and the environment.
Some of our achievements include:
The cultivation of palm oil at an industrial-scale has wreaked havoc with the rainforests and forest peoples of South-East Asia and is now threatening rainforests in the Congo Basin. This 2013 report, the result of original research commissioned by The Rainforest Foundation UK, lifts the lid on the new expansion of oil palm developments in the Congo Basin.