After many years of working closely on the ecology and economy of agricultural products and farming – especially in the developing world – it is encouraging to see that Belgian and French consumers will be learning more about palm oil in the coming months. A new communications campaign has been launched by the Malaysian Palm Oil community, with the aim of providing facts to consumers.
I have worked closely on palm oil-related issues in Africa, where it is a crop of great importance – socially, economically, and environmentally. This is equally true in Malaysia. Contrary to the common belief that large plantations dominate oil palm cultivation, it is small farmers who account for 40-60% of production of palm oil in emerging countries, including 300,000 in Malaysia alone. The positive social consequences of this are enormous – reduced poverty, higher living standards, property rights, development of rural communities, and so on.
Three young students from France and Belgium recently visited Malaysia to discover these facts, and many others I am sure. The new Malaysian campaign explains what the students found – what I already knew from many years in the industry – that palm oil is a great source of prosperity and wellbeing in rural communities, a truth that is often hidden here in Europe.
The reasons why oil palm has been chosen by so many farmers in Africa and Asia is very simple: it is a perennial crop and has the highest yield of oil per unit area when compared to other crops – it yields between 7 and 10 times more oil per hectare than competing oil plants. Moreover, it doesn’t require too much of investments in technical equipment making at an ideal option for small farmers.
The misinformation about palm oil in Europe can jeopardize small farmers’ livelihoods, and the many services which are developed close to oil palm plantations: housing, schools, roads and health care facilities. A hectare of land under oil palm cultivation can generate 1,000 to 3,000 dollars per year, contributing significantly to rural poverty alleviation.
The campaign is also focusing on palm oil’s role in biodiversity and forest conservation. Malaysia has conserved over 50% of land cover as forests – a commitment significantly greater than developed nations. This commitment was made back in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, and the United Nations confirms that this promise is still being met today.
Discover the positive story of Malaysian Palm Oil on economic success and environmental protection here – www.malaysianpalmoil.info