The Palm Scribe

Collective Actions, the Keyword for the 2020s in Assuring a Deforestation-free Palm Oil Industry: Experts


deforestation issue

Although forest loss in Indonesia has been decreasing for the third year running, deforestation was still an issue globally, and experts said that only collective actions of all stakeholders could help eliminate or curb deforestations which recent data showed was increasingly involving smallholders rather than big plantations.

Justin Adams, Executive Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance said that in the past decade there had been “tremendous” progress in slowing down the global deforestation rate, and cited among the good stories, that of Indonesia which he said had for a third year in a row slowed down its deforestation rate to reach just some 300, 000 hectares in 2019.

“The deforestation rate in Indonesia is down by approximately half of its long-term average and from a peak of over 900,000 hectares per year probably seven years ago. The latest data from Forest Watch came out yesterday globally and for the third year running Indonesia’s deforestation is down again,” Adams said in a Webinar organized by Swiss-based Earthworm Foundation about how global businesses were progressing in meeting their 2020 deforestation-free palm oil targets.

“That is not to say that the problem is solved” Adams quickly added, saying further that in 2020, the problem of deforestation was still very real, with the overall number globally still at high 3.8 million hectares of loss in 2019.

He warned that as the world was also faced with the Covid-19 crisis, more people, particularly the poor in Africa, and in some parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America, were going to be pushed into more desperate situations. When the poor people have no other choice, then often forests were being cleared, he said.

Adams said that increasingly deforestation alerts were for smaller areas of clearing and not by big plantations. Smallholders, he said were increasingly clearing land for food, or for any source of income.

“So, this is the issues that we are going to be addressing particularly, and I think troublingly in this sort of post-COVID world where governments will be looking at how to reboot economies, looking at how to create jobs and economic opportunities. I think the pressure are going to be more and more intense and the challenges that we are facing need to be recognized by responding with a collective approach rather than an individual approach,” Adams said.

While the last decade had seen a lot of individual actions from companies and organization, the 2020s should be a decade of collective actions, adding that without these collective actions, the world would fail to meet the key targets of deforestation as well as its sustainable development goals.

He said that as the world moved forward into the 2020s, it had to be embracing more collective actions and that, he added would require greater collaboration between the private sector, governments, and the civil society.

“It is going to require new approaches to smallholders because no single private sector companies….. can solve the problems around smallholders because these are critical development challenges that we have been challenged with for decades and still have not found solutions. So, that is going to required innovative and new approaches around finance,” Adams said.

He said that although collective actions would not be easy to embrace, they were necessary so that the world does not fall backwards in the next decades.

“We have got to go further and we could only do that by working together,” Adams said.

Phil Aikman, Campaign Director at global environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth, where he focuses on forest conservation in Southeast Asia with an emphasis on the palm oil sector, also agreed that collective action was the call to arms for this decade.

“We are using the same theory of change we had ten years ago, now is our chance to actually examine what has worked, what has not worked but if we carry on with just the same track, I think we will fall backwards,” he said, adding that the key was collective actions where everyone would be working together and putting common interests above individual ones.

“It is going to be hard, and COVID, in lots of ways makes it harder, but also makes it more important than ever that we do that together,” Aikman said.

Calls for multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder actions involving all players in the palm oil production chain have been repeatedly aired in a number of recent webinars on the palm oil industry, with many arguing that such collective actions were necessary considering the complexity of the challenges faced by the industry of this commodity.

More from Bhimanto Suwastoyo.

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