Deforestation briefing: Sustainable palm oil solution sought in Africa

By Terry Slavin

Sime Darby’s Simon Lord is seeking partners to trial a model that balances forest conservation with economic development in Liberia

While the high carbon stock approach methodology will help companies implement no-deforestation commitments in Indonesia’s fragmented landscapes, it is ill-suited to help in densely forested Africa, where most new palm oil development is now occurring.

According to a new report from the World Resources Institute, expanding palm oil plantations in Liberia and Sierra Leone will have contributed to a six and 12-fold increase, respectively, in deforestation in 2015 compared to 2001.

“It’s a methodology everyone can agree with,” says Simon Lord, chief sustainability officer of Sime Darby of the High Carbon Stock Approach. “But there is still one problem. It works in a fragmented landscape but when a country is forested and the forest is old, what do you do?”

Since January 2014, when Sime Darby signed up to the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto, committing to no further deforestation, no planting on peat, and no exploitation of workers and communities (a precursor to the High Carbon Stock Approach), the company has had a moratorium on all new planting in Liberia, where it was awarded a concession by the Liberian government to develop 220,000 hectares in 2008.  “Since 2008, we’ve only developed 2,000 hectares in Liberia,” he says. “And we were only able to develop that because we knocked down rubber trees and planted palm oil.”

A big part of the problem was the absence of free prior and informed consent from communities, which Lord says the company has been working diligently to obtain. What remains unchanged is the density of forest cover on the concessions, which under the High Carbon Stock Approach must remain touched.  Dense forest covers more than 40 per cent of the country and are considered one of west Africa’s most important carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots.

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Source: News Now

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About Cholo Brooks 4480 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL), including several other international organizations of journalists.