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The better side of palm oil

July 18, 2017

Palm oil is often synonymous with deforestation, pollution and bad agricultural practices. But an example from Sierra Leone shows that it doesn't have to be.

Farmers in Sierra Leone
Image: Björn Kietzmann

The price of palm oil in Sierra Leone

Project goal: Production of sustainable palm oil
Project implementation: Natural Habitat, a small company based in the Netherlands, collaborates with local smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone, who have been producing organic palm oil for decades. They don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides - instead they rely on traditional farming methods.   
Project size:
Around 1,400 farmers collaborate with the company
Project partners: Nedoil (Sierra Leone), Natural Habitats (the Netherlands)

Cookies, ice cream, margarine - almost every processed product in the supermarket contains palm oil, and global consumption is growing fast. It's big business for international corporations - many of which are looking to Sierra Leone, where some local clan chiefs are eager to sell land to investors and crop producers. As a result, many smallholder farmers are losing access to their land. But there are counterexamples as well: farmers who grow palm oil sustainably, without chemicals; and there are international companies like Natural Habitats, which buy their organic palm oil at fair prices. This allows the farmers to establish a decent and reliable livelihood.

A film by Ruth Krause