For a sustainable palm oil development

 Countries in the Congo Basin are experiencing multiple challenges amongst which poverty reduction, economic growth, food security and the fight against deforestation.  One  of  the potential areas  of  economic  growth  is  the  production  of  palm  oil  for  financial  and  local employment benefits. With limited options for further growth of new palm oil plantations in South-East  Asia,  currently  the  largest foreign producer  of  palm  oil, are now looking  to expand their activities. The Congo Basin is one of the specific target areas for their expansion, particularly in the Green Heart of Africa (Cameroon, Gabon, DRC, CAR and the Republic of Congo). With this increased interest from investors, the Congo Basin is going through a phase of economic growth, leading to new and increased conservation challenges at multiple levels.

Palm oil, with an annual global production of over 50 million tons (USDA 2012), has become the  most  important  vegetable  oil  globally. Palm  oil  contributes  to  30%  of  the  world’s production  of  vegetal  oils.  Considering it favorable characteristics palm oil  demand  is expected to continue to grow to approximately 70 Mt in 2020.

More  than  14  million ha  of  oil  palms have  been  planted  across  the  tropics. The predicted expansion of palm oil plantation areas needed to meet global demand is likely to result in an additional lo 4 million ha of deforestation by 2020. As it is a common cooking ingredient in Africa, Southeast Asia and part of Brazil. Palm oil is also a highly profitable product for the producers and suppliers.

What we do

 WWF International policy recognizes that palm oil is used to provide basic food needs and that it is also increasingly used as a biofuel.
It recognizes that the oil palm expansion process has  the  potential  to  provide  economic  development  and  improve  rural  livelihoods in  areas where  it  is  developed.  However,  there  is  also a serious  risk  that  expansion of  palm  oil plantations cause  deforestation,  biodiversity  loss,  destruction  of  High  Conservation  Values (HCV)  areas  and have other  negative  social  and  environmental  impacts  if  not  planned carefully  and  in  a  responsible  and  sustainable  way.  

The  WWF  Central  African  Regional Program  Office  (CARPO)  seeks  to  address  these  challenges  of  expansion  and  biodiversity conservation. Considering the fact that palm oil developments are only emerging in the Congo Basin, now is the time to have an impact on how palm oil will be expanded in the region and to  prevent potential devastating  effects it  can  have on  biodiversity  conservation  and  local livelihoods. Many of the negative impacts that are characteristic of long-existing plantations are  the  consequence  of  poor  planning  and  inadequate  consideration  to  social  and environmental best practices.
Indirectly,  the  current  scramble  for Congo  basin’s  natural  resources  leads  to  conflict  over available land, resulting in overlap between, for example, palm oil concessions and protected areas,  or mineral exploration permits and forestry concessions. Integrated land use planning, taking into account both conservation and developmental needs is a key tool to solve these conflicts. WWF wants to be an actor in ensuring that palm oil expansions are planned with care and in a sustainable way.  This implies, ensuring minimal deforestation and negative impacts on high conservation areas in the Congo basin area.

To  achieve  sustainable  palm  oil  development  in  the  Congo  Basin, WWF  has  developed  a GHoA  palm  oil  strategy.  The  aim  of  this  strategy  is  to  change the classic  development patterns and supply chains towards sustainable development in the coming years, which will be crucial for the future of palm oil in the Congo Basin, which is still in its infancy. WWF can, in collaboration with other parties, have a great impact on the way oil palm is expanded by promoting and raising awareness on Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and its benefits.  Promoting  the  use  of  social  and  environmental  best  practices  will  also  avoid  that palm oil developments have negative impacts on High Conservation Value (HCV) areas.