A worker holds oil palm kernels at a plantation in Mamuju district, West Sulawesi, in this file photo. A study by the Environmental Research, Advocacy and Conservation Center (Pusaka Kalam) conducted in Riau, South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and West Sulawesi found that most of the land currently used for palm oil plantations had served as farmland before being converted to plantations. (Antara Photo/Akbar Tado)

Palm Plantations Not Main Cause of Deforestation, Study Shows

BY : SUKSMAJATI KUMARA

JULY 12, 2019

Jakarta. Professor Yanto Santosa of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture in West Java said recent research had shown that palm oil plantations were not the main cause of deforestation and that it instead improved degraded land. 

Results from a study by the Environmental Research, Advocacy and Conservation Center (Pusaka Kalam), of which he is a member, conducted in Riau, South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and West Sulawesi found that palm plantations had various origins. 

The research was carried out on the history of the land to determine what it was used for before being turned into plantations. It found that most of the land currently used for palm oil plantations had served as farmland before being converted to plantations.

"Before the permits were issued, these lands were long used for farming and other plantations, mainly for rubber trees and various shrubs," Yanto said on Thursday.

He expressed hope that this research would help Indonesians and people in other countries understand the origins of the plantations. 

Yanto said local and foreign nongovernment organizations have since 2006 "deliberately created" the narrative that the proliferation of palm oil plantations was causing rampant deforestation and negatively affecting biodiversity.

He added that it was necessary to conduct research into the history and origins of a certain plot of land and examine the chronology of permits from various sources before linking deforestation and palm oil plantations.

"If the accusations were the result of a sampling or 'partial observation' at a certain plantation, of course, the validity of the accusation must be questioned," Yanto said. 

He said that is why the academics want to invite parties that are underinformed to a discussion based on comprehensive scientific research. 

"The emotional rhetoric echoed by certain groups accusing palm oil producers of deforestation is baseless and irresponsible. That is why we need to band together to avoid uncertainty," Yanto said.

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