Palm oil has a bad reputation. In the media we have seen how its production destroys rainforests and exploits people. But what happens when we produce it the right way? And we can all benefit from the many advantages that palm oil has to offer? Then we will start to change lives. Like the live of Mario, an Ecuadorian farmer: ‘Since I transitioned to organic farming I can finally breathe again in my plantation’.
Mario is one of the oil palm farmers that switched from conventional to organic palm growing practices. Last year I met him in Ecuador and asked him how this has changed his life. Sitting on his porch he served me his home-made chocolate: ‘Made from cocoa beans my son cultivates’. He pointed to the piece of land, close to his house, where cocoa trees and oil palms are planted. In the old days it was difficult to get by. He made less money from his plantation and he suffered from the chemicals he used, making it hard to breath while working his land. Now he smiles, when he talks about his work as an organic farmer: ‘I am really happy, preserving nature and protecting my health, as well as my family’s and my workers’ health. I am also creating more work for people from nearby communities by farming organically’.
When we produce palm oil the right way it brings many benefits. It is palm oil that elevates the quality and performance of many products that we use daily. It enables margarine to be spreadable, ice cream to taste creamy, cookies to be crispy and it helps your detergent to get rid of those nasty stains you dread. It ensures work and income in countries where palm oil is grown. There are already many farmers, like Mario, that prove it.
Good palm oil does exist, produced with respect for people and nature: 100% organic, deforestation-free, wildlife friendly, fair & social. It is important to look beyond the horror stories that the media circulate. When we start to ask for sustainable palm oil and reward its use, we will not only protect nature, but we will also make sure that farmers like Mario, and his workers, will have a better life. And we can continue to benefit from the versatility of this beautiful crop.
There is no need to be anxious and keep palm oil out of your cupboards. We need more clarity. Read the wrappers of the products you buy. Instead of turning away from brands based on the images you see in the news. Reach out to manufacturers. Ask them where the palm oil in their products was sourced and how it was produced. My request to manufacturers? Be open and transparent about the palm oil you use. Start a conversation with your consumers. Show them that the transition to sustainable palm oil is the only real solution. This way we jointly start a movement that will benefit everyone.
Written by Monique van Wijnbergen, Natural Habitat’s Sustainability & Corporate Communications Director and spokesperson for Palm Done Right.
Palm can be grown for good, bringing benefits to:
Together, we can influence change for: