Palm Oil

Oil palm expansion in Indonesia has increased as worldwide demand for the commodity increases. Approximately 10% of Indonesia’s exports is palm oil, with major recipients are China and India. In Aceh and the Leuser Ecosystem, oil palm expansion has continue to grow steadily since the early 2000s. According to BPS (Central Statistics Body of Indonesia), in 2018 the area of palm oil plantation in Aceh is approximately 450,000 hectares.

Although the non-native palm oil have contributed slightly to the economic growth of Indonesia, the social and environmental impacts of palm oil has been more significant. The industry is often associated with land-grabbing and corruption, where local and indigenous communities are at loss of their rights. The plantation itself is harmful to the ecosystem and biodiversity, as some plantations are currently on land that was previously lush forests that were home for species such as tigers, orangutans, and many others. All of these also contributes to the climate change, as the previous forest played a major role for carbon storage.

It cannot be denied that palm oil usage cannot be separated from our lives as it is used as a base for many everyday products. To improve the industry, government and NGOs have to play a bigger role to work with the companies and communities to achieve a more sustainable approach that is more accommodating to indigenous and local communities, and more environmentally friendly.

Palm oil expansion is a threat the Leuser Ecosystem, destroying habitats of key and charismatic species. (Credit: Paul Hilton)