Palm Oil's New Frontier

How industrial expansion threatens Africa's rainforests

Publication - September 5, 2012
The world's biggest palm oil producers and investors have been turning their attention to Africa in recent years, seeking to acquire land to grow oil palms in what some experts have dubbed the "next frontier" of industrial agricultural production.

When it is done well and  is properly managed, palm oil production can be of potential benefit to the populations of developing countries, providing sustainable livelihoods. On the other hand, unchecked large-scale expansion of the industry could lead to environmental devastation, and precipitate social and economic havoc. Some acquisitions put forests, ecosystems and the climate at risk, and threaten the livelihood of the people depending on the land.

This report charts the rapid expansion of the palm oil in western and central Africa by multinational companies, through a series of large-scale plantation projects. Countries in Africa now stand at a crossroads. They can choose to continue to allow these corporations to encroach upon their land and expand into their natural rainforests in pursuit of short-term economic benefits. Alternatively, African governments and African people can choose the path of sustainable development and put the protection of their natural resources and their livelihoods first.

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