Green and fair palm oil: truth or a fairy tale?
Palm oil production is widely associated with land grabs, human rights violations, large scale monoculture and severe environmental damage. Positive examples in the palm oil sector are rarely highlighted, but fortunately they do exist. Companies like Musim Mas and Bumitama in Indonesia are leading a much needed shift to a more environmentally and socially responsible way of palm oil production. Recently, Ms. Lim Sian Choo, Head of Corporate Secretarial Services and of Corporate Social Responsibility of Bumitama was in the Netherlands for an informal meeting organised by AidEnvironment and Both ENDS. Representatives from the private sector, NGOs and government were also present to discuss concrete steps taken by Bumitama to achieve sustainability in real time.
Bumitama, alongside a number of other plantation companies committed to ‘zero deforestation, zero peat and zero exploitation of any new land designated for palm oil production’. For Bumitama 2013 marked a turning point for palm production when companies such as Unilever adopted policies to fight deforestation and, abandon palm oil grown on peat from the supply chain. But this policy has yet to be adopted by producers and larger palm oil companies. Even within the ‘Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), of which it is a member, Bumitama became -and still is- a front runner.
An important part of the sustainability efforts by Bumitama is to reach out to local communities and explore new avenues to restore and protect forest land and to create alternative on-farm and off-farm income generating opportunities. Furthermore, Bumitama is endeavoring to connect fragmented parcels of forest to create corridors. The idea behind such a natural corridor is to connect two larger, but still fragmented, remaining forest areas in order to allow biodiversity to move more freely from one area to the other.
According to Ms Sian these conservation efforts have helped improve environmental conditions and enhance community access to land and involvement in forest conservation. These efforts require close collaboration with the local government which has proven to be an important ally in facilitating sustainable palm oil production. Thus, Bumitama is working with the government and local communities towards reducing further loss of valuable forest areas and creating viable measures to protect these areas in the long term.
Improving community livelihoods
To combat deforestation, e.g. as a result of illegal logging, Bumitama engages in activities with communities to improve the livelihood of villagers. “If, for example, an illegal logger is identified, we offer him the financial means and coaching to start other activities to generate income, for example by becoming a poultry farmer”, says Ms. Sian. “These efforts have proven to be successful, but the struggle to guarantee sustainable palm production has only just started.
An important government change is still necessary in negotiations concerning land use and land rights. Communities still face displacement or other environmental consequences because they are not legally registered as owners of the land. Inconsistencies between local maps and state maps still cause tensions and conflicts of ownership. We will continue to search for solutions for these problems.”
The way forward
Thousands of hectares of forest which are already ‘enclaved’ by plantation concessions can or will not be cleared for palm oil cultivation. A major challenge is that the permitting authority (district government) may insist that the company holding the license uses these areas for development purposes. Or else, the authority will annul the license and give it to another company which is not hesitant to convert this forest.
Paul Wolvekamp of Both ENDS: "Companies such as Bumitama and Musim Mas seek ways to use the area for development purposes, and at the same time enhance forest conservation. Bumitama has gone further down this road and assists local communities to manage forest for economic and subsistence purposes by sustainable extraction, value addition and marketing of non-timber forest products. Other options are for example the development of eco-tourism."
"Palm oil alone will never be able to provide enough income and employment for the rapidly growing rural population", Paul emphasises. "Strengthening and reintroduction of more diverse agro-forestry systems and community forest management alongside palm oil production, rubber and other dominant cash crops is the only way forward .In that respect, these new forms of company-community engagement are very encouraging. Also within RSPO we need to enhance and share these experiences and further develop a ‘community of learning'."
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Event / 7 December 2021, 14:00 - 15:15
The European Union's (EU) foreign trade policy has many implications for the sustainability of food systems in developing countries, heavily impacting farmers, breeders, and citizens. The unhidden promotion by the EU of strong intellectual property rights on plants affects food systems from its very basis, i.e., the seeds that are available for farmers to grow. Amongst these intellectual property rights, the main instrument that is advocated by European authorities is the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention, which provides exclusive rights to breeders over the propagating material of new plant varieties, while diminishing the rights of others to use the material for further breeding and hampering with the rights of farmers to freely save, use, exchange and sell their seeds.
Publication / 29 November 2021
News / 22 November 2021
Export support – and especially that to fossil projects – has been in the spotlights quite often recently. This is a positive development, because the Netherlands alone provides fossil export support worth 1.5 billion euros per year. At the climate summit in Glasgow, the United Kingdom launched a statement promising to stop providing export support to fossil projects by the end of 2022. After having denied at first, the Netherlands decided to join the statement after all – which now has already been signed by nearly forty countries and financial institutions.
External link / 17 November 2021
Julio Bichehe Erneste of Farmers Union Cabo Delgado Mozambique (UPC) on a side event of COP26 in Glasgow, speaking about the negative impacts of export support for fossil fuel projects for local people and their enrironment, and about the need to support renewable energy projects instead.
News / 8 November 2021
Both ENDS and SOMO condemn violence against Indigenous community near the Barro Blanco dam in Panama
Members of the Indigenous Ngäbe Buglé people were brutally attacked by Panamanian police on Friday 29 October 2021 from a parcel of private land near the FMO-financed Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. The victims, all members of the anti-dam movement M22, had peacefully occupied the land after their protest camp got dismantled in July this year.
News / 8 November 2021
Today, the Netherlands announced that it will join a leading group of countries, including the United States, Canada and Italy, which declared that they would stop international support for fossil energy projects. At the day of the launch of the declaration at the climate summit in Glasgow on the 4th of November, the Netherlands had no intention of joining, but because of pressure from civil society and political parties, the responsible ministries decided to sign after all. Both ENDS, together with organizations at home and abroad, has been pushing for this for years, and we are very happy with this step. We will of course continue to monitor developments.
Event / 6 November 2021, 13:00 - 15:00
This Saturday, November 6, people all over the world will take to the streets again to make a stand for the climate. In the Netherlands, the Climate March will take place in Amsterdam, and of course Both ENDS will join. We call on everyone who is concerned about the climate, to walk along with thousands of like-minded people and make this the largest Climate March in history!
Event / 4 November 2021, 16:45 - 18:00
UNFCCC COP 26 side event ‘Aligning export finance with the Paris Agreement: high time to phase out fossil fuels’
Many countries heavily support fossil fuel investments abroad through their export credit agency (ECA). This contributes to carbon lock- in, whereby companies or even countries commit themselves to a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions for the lifetime of the infrastructure — oftentimes years or even decades. This seriously delays the transition to renewable energy sources, and is certainly not in line with Art. 2.1c of the Paris Agreement.
Highlighting the impacts caused by export finance in the global South, this side event will provide concrete recommendations to decarbonize export credit agencies.
Event / 4 November 2021, 13:15 - 14:30
With gender-responsiveness a work in progress, current climate funds are hardly accessible for women-led community based organizations. While these groups lack access to finance and decision-making, they already lead bold holistic gender-just climate solutions and initiatives worth funding support.
Follow this event live on YouTube!
Publication / 2 November 2021
External link / 31 October 2021
In this short video, Niels Hazekamp of Both ENDS talks about how the Netherlands stimulates projects related to the fossil sector abroad through its export credit agency (ECA) Atradius DSB. The ECA provides export credit insurance for very large-scale and high-risk activities abroad. About two thirds of this export support (worth around 1.5 billion euros per year) is going to the fossil fuel sector. Absurd, at a time when the whole world has to make the transition to sustainable energy. Our country should not support the fossil, but the renewable energy sector with such guarantees, and grab that chance of 1.5 billion!
Press release / 26 October 2021
Today, on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, the fossil fuel divest-invest movement released a new report that details how institutions representing an unprecedented total of EUR 33.7 trillion worth of assets have now committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, a figure that's higher than the annual GDP of the United States and China combined.
Publication / 26 October 2021
Event / 25 October 2021, 14:30 - 18:00
News / 24 October 2021
On Friday October 22nd, six staff members of our partner organisation Africa Institute of Energy Governance (AFIEGO), including its director Dickens Kamugisha, were arrested in Kampala, Uganda. AFIEGO is one of four Ugandan organisations involved in several legal cases against the oil project, including the one against TotalEnergies in France and in the East African Court of Justice.
News / 15 October 2021
The Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB is not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement; on behalf of the Dutch State, it continues to strongly support investments in fossil fuels. This is the conclusion of a report by German research agency Perspectives Climate Research (PCR), in which the export credit agencies of the Netherlands and Japan are measured in terms of their climate ambitions and alignment with the Paris Agreement.
Press release / 11 October 2021
New website shines a light on the extent of export credit agencies' support for fossil fuels
Each year governments provide tens of billions of dollars in financial support to fossil fuel projects via export credit agencies (ECAs). Today, 18 civil society groups from 14 countries are launching a new website to shine a spotlight on how ECAs are undermining global climate goals. In advance of the November UN climate conference, the organisations are calling on governments around the world to end public financial support for coal, oil and gas projects, including support from ECAs. Ending this support and redirecting financial resources to sustainable alternatives is essential for a just energy transition.
News / 30 September 2021
About 75% of Kenyans earn all or part of their income from the agriculture sector which accounts for 33% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Various factors have contributed to low agricultural productivity, including an overall decline in soil fertility because of the continuous removal of nutrients by crops; poor farming practices; land degradation and overuse/misuse of synthetic fertilizers that acidify the soil. The solution against these problems is: agroecology.
News / 27 September 2021
In times of ecosystem degradation, deforestation and climate change, rural communities often struggle to make a living in a healthy and autonomous way. One of the solutions to counter their problems is Analog Forestry, a sustainable practice promoted by many of Both ENDS's partners. We spoke to Carolina Sorzano Lopez*, Analog Forestry trainer from Colombia for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), and Luz Marina Valle*, a local Analog Forestry promotora in her community of El Jocote in Northern Nicaragua, to explain to us the advantages of Analog Forestry.
News / 17 September 2021
About one in every six people, particularly women, directly rely on forests for their lives and livelihoods, especially for food. This shows how important non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and forests are to ensure community resilience. Not only as a source of food, water and income, but also because of their cultural and spiritual meaning.