African countries commit to sustainable palm oil production

Seven African countries on Wednesday pledge to protect their rain forests by moving to sustainable palm oil production. In a statement from the World Economic Forum, (WEF) it said that the seven governments had agreed to “protect over 70% of Africa’s tropical forests” from unsustainable palm oil practices. The Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone were due to sign a joint declaration at the COP22 climate change talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Wednesday. According to the statement, the seven countries represent over 250 million hectares of tropical forest, 13% of the world’s total and 70% of the total rain forest in Africa. WEF said the pledge was being supported by some of the world’s largest producers, buyers and traders of palm oil, who along with NGOs and human rights groups, are partners of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) and have welcomed the move. The secretariat of the TFA 2020 is hosted at the World Economic Forum. The statement added that the ministers of agriculture and environment, who were to sign the pledge, had agreed to “place sustainability, human rights and collaboration with industry, indigenous peoples and civil society groups at the heart of the expanding palm oil industry in Africa”. Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil worldwide and about half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets contain palm oil, according to the World Wildlife Fund. It fuels a $50 billion global industry, which is projected to rise to $88 billion a year by 2022. With growing demand, Africa is regarded as the next growth spot for palm oil production, but that often comes at the cost of deforestation and associated carbon emissions and global warming. Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnerships at WEF, said that the declaration showed how the commitments made by global businesses to remove deforestation from palm oil supply chains were changing the global market. “These governments recognise the significant market signal that global businesses are providing through their desire to source sustainable palm oil at scale. Through this unprecedented agreement, the African Palm Oil Initiative – with support from the private sector and civil society through the platform of the Tropical Forest Alliance is now well-positioned to build a multi-country market for sustainable palm oil across West and Central Africa that will improve smallholder incomes and drive greater action on tropical deforestation,” he said. Unilever, a major buyer of palm oil, welcomed the move. "Palm oil, if produced sustainably, can play a key role in poverty alleviation by helping farmers thrive economically while adopting sustainable agricultural and business practices. I am pleased that these countries are demonstrating their commitment to sustainable palm oil by signing the Marrakesh Declaration,” said Paul Polman, Unilever CEO. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, the indigenous people’s caucus to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said it would protect the livelihoods of communities. "Deforestation has often been linked to human rights violations. People are losing access to the land they have always lived on and farmed. I hope this declaration will be an example to the rest of the region and encourage other tropical forest African countries to follow in the commitment.” And Fred Kwame, Regional Director of Africa, WWF, said he welcomed the declaration, adding that it “supports the emergence of a palm oil sector that protects biodiversity, community rights and integrates socio-economic development”. According to WEF, the Marrakesh Declaration is part of an ongoing public-private partnership taking place in Africa under the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative. “It represents a public acknowledgement that, while investment in Africa’s palm oil sector has the potential to deliver economic benefits to the region, it also brings the risk of significant social and environmental problems, including deforestation, land conflicts, human rights abuses and the destruction of high conservation values.” The Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) is a regional programme of the TFA 2020, a global partnership to remove deforestation from the supply chains of soy, beef, palm oil, and paper and pulp.     Source: sabc