The production of palm oil is often accompanied by deforestation, environmental destruction and land grabbing. Local communities and activists who stand up against these problems are often threatened. Now the RSPO has taken significant steps in recent months to tackle these issues.
Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Program have formally requested the European Parliament, Commission and Council and the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, to consult indigenous and local communities impacted by EU trade in palm oil and other agricultural commodities in formal EU policy deliberations on these topics. Why did we decide to do so and what's it all about? Our colleague Michael Rice sheds some light on the matter.
By Michael Rice
Pak Japin is a quiet, slim, and softly-spoken man from the village of Silat Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. I met him at a recent documentary screening in Bali on the fringe of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference, where he spoke about his community's nine year-long conflict with palm oil company Golden Agri Resources Ltd (GAR).
We are outraged and saddened to hear that Hernán Bedoya, a brave Colombian community leader and human rights defender, has been brutally murdered. After numerous threats to his life and despite all the best efforts of local groups to provide him with protection (such as bullet proof vests, cell phone etc.) he was shot dead by paramilitaries last Friday the 8th of December, while riding home on his horse.
Farmer in Kiungkang, West-Kalimantan, talks about the effects of the palm oil plantation around his village on food production and the health of the population.
After five years of equivocation the European Commission has proposed a ‘roadmap’ for stepping-up EU action to address its contribution to global deforestation. Despite the escalating impact of EU trade in forest-risk commodities, regardless of repeated calls from the European Parliament for regulatory measures and contrary to the conclusions of the Commission’s own feasibility study in support of legislative intervention, the Commission has ruled-out out any new initiatives, let alone any legislative measures. The Commission’s solution to this complex problem: policy coherence.
Last week, indigenous leaders from various countries were in Paris to urge action on deforestation and human rights abuses at the multi-stakeholder meeting of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership. The group, invited by Forests Peoples Programme and Both ENDS, presented a publication 'Supply chain solutions for people and forests' containing a set of practical recommendations from local communities on how to make supply chains more sustainable and fair.
In 2005, a palm oil company approached the villagers of Kiungkang in West-Kalimantan, Indonesia, with offers to convert their farms to oil palm smallholdings. Many farmers agreed to the proposal because of the high monthly incomes promised by the company that they could earn from the oil palms. Unfortunately, the palm oil dream turned out to be an illusion.