The developmental potential of oil palm continues to muster support in developing countries. In Ghana, Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the French development agency, has recently decided to finance a small farmer development scheme for oil palm, which is expected to create 750 jobs. This commitment by the French Development Agency contrasts the anti-palm oil campaigns waged by some French retailers and will form part of Ghana’s larger effort to harness prosperity through oil palm expansion under its Oil Palm Development Master Plan –expected to be finalized later this month. The success of this program has the potential to spur increased agriculture development in the country and increase focus on the potential for this sector to drive poverty alleviation and food security.
Similarly, in nearby Liberia they have applauded the development of the industry, noting the achievements made through oil palm cultivation in Malaysia, where the oil palm has brought development and prosperity. With 220,000 hectares identified for oil palm cultivation by Malaysian plantation operator Sime Darby, much of it degraded land, thousands of much needed jobs are to be created in a country that emerged from civil war only a few years ago.
With the OECD estimating that food production must increase by 60% by 2050 and demand for vegetable oils set to increase by another 100million tonnes by 2021, the oil palm seems destined to fulfill its promise of being a high impact development tool. The hope is that this crop will deliver developing countries in West Africa the same prosperity and economic growth that it has provided Malaysia and that this promise is not broken by the narrow self-interest of Western opponents to development, who continue to campaign against this miracle crop.