Palm oil is included in versatile products, from hygiene items to biofuel or food. However, the ingredient is notorious for the palm oil deforestation issue, apart from its affordability. Sadly, palm oil and deforestation closely relate. Its growing consumption increases demand, which aggravates the situation even more. The palm oil deforestation map covers the rainforests of Latin America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, bringing negative consequences for tropical wildlife and our planet in general. Deforestation for palm oil is no reasonable solution, though, and commodity producers should switch to more sustainable methods instead.
Various satellite imagery sources reveal severe forest losses globally, many of which are connected to deforestation due to palm oil production. Just to illustrate it with figures, the market demand in 2019 made 74.6 million tons, with an expected rise of 2.3% by 2027. Consequently, this rise involves land grabbing and deforestation for palm oil, making the greatest impact on rainforest areas.
The reason for the product’s popularity is its increased use for food, from baby formulas to snacks. The benefits of this ingredient are disputable. Even though palm oil is 50% saturated fats, increasing cholesterol levels and heart disease risks, it is still trans-fat free and has less saturated fat, say, than butter. Considering that the product is cheap, it is an obvious choice for many. In fact, the commodity has penetrated our lives through shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, medications, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, soap, and whatnot. This is not necessarily bad. The bad thing is that palm oil contributes to deforestation.
Why does the growing of palm oil lead to deforestation? When palm oil producers want to expand their businesses but run out of available lands, they turn to forest cutting. In this situation, rainforest deforestation for palm oil reaches an immensely vast span. It happens because the palm is a tropical or subtropical plant, and rainforest areas are the most suitable for its growth. This is why they suffer most.
Fortunately not. The rate of deforestation for palm oil gradually slows down, thanks to governmental control, ecologic NGO activities, law enforcement, public awareness, ethical concerns, producers’ and consumers’ responsibility, and merely common sense. Thus, the compliance of oil palm fruit production with voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) in 2016 made 17.4% globally. It may seem not really much compared to 82.2% of the conventional one. However, accounted that it had been 100% conventional until 2013, the achievement was great.
Ideally, palm oil without deforestation is possible. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created in 2004 to advocate the eco-friendly approach and revert the process of deforestation for palm oil. As a result, major consumer goods manufacturers like Colgate-Palmolive, P&G, Nestle, Ferrero, Pepsico Inc., Unilever, and others pledged to use fully sustainable (zero deforestation) sources by 2022. RSPO Annual Communication of Progress (ACOP) of 2019 reports up to 100% transition to certified products. It also uncovers certain failures to meet the 2020 deadlines for NDPE commitments (no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation). In particular, some big companies show the following results: Bayer – 100%, Unilever – 99.56%, Colgate-Palmolive – 61.95%, to mention a few. Still, only 19% of the commodity has been RSPO-certified globally by now.
Technically, some trees are cut to grow others, but it’s in no way reforestation. Palms do contribute to air purification, yet rainforest deforestation due to palm oil production would be but a lame excuse.
Here are some of the most severe negative effects of deforestation for palm oil production. Thus, deforestation:
Palm oil production is favorable for economic development and employment, particularly, in rural areas. However, stakeholders often try to run their businesses nearly at maximum, striving for the highest ROIs. Palm oil mill owners are no exception. Logically, the more their mills process, the more raw materials they need.
However, greediness hardly accords sustainability. In this case, it is often among the causes of palm oil deforestation, which prevents consumer goods manufacturers from meeting the NDPE requirements. This is why companies are to check their supply chains and exclude the compromising deforestation links. They can achieve the goal with good governance and proper expertise.
Obviously, huge enterprises can’t inspect thousands of their global suppliers in place. However, here is what they can:
Thus, it is much easier to know about deforestation due to palm oil with remote sensing and satellite data analytics. Furthermore, as most brands align to their zero-deforestation commitments, they opt for suppliers who use ONLY agricultural lands to widen their plantations.
Alongside that, detecting deforestation events around mills de facto is not the only use of satellite monitoring. It also allows assessing the risks of a potential effect of palm oil production on deforestation. Thus, it is possible to correlate mill capacity with nearby plantation productivity that can be estimated with historical and current satellite images. If nearby plantation productivity is lower than mill capacity, the shortfall may cause forest cuts for plantation expansion. So, such mills require acute attention.
Besides, satellite monitoring suggests near real-time alerts to all business stakeholders to look deeper into the situation whenever necessary. Big manufacturers can turn to free satellite imagery sources or invest in partnerships with tech companies to be in the know by deploying monitoring systems around their mills.
EOSDA offers satellite monitoring systems of forest cover with its LandViewer and upcoming product for forestry needs. The infographics below illustrate the possibility to detect deciduous forests, forest cuts, newly planted trees, and palm oil plantations.
The images are based on the following band combinations:
It is clear that with increasing commodity demand, plantation areas will also expand. However, to comply with sustainability and no-deforestation requirements, it should be done in a way that is alternative to deforestation. Thus, sustainable solutions to palm oil deforestation suggest locating plantations only on agricultural and fallow lands, not at the cost of forest cuts. This approach will eliminate the adverse environmental effects of the devastating practice.
The goal implementation requires close collaboration of all stakeholders, including authorities and regular citizens. With a sole demand for the certified, deforestation-free product and an eradicated use of the deforestation-involved one, the situation will drastically improve.
Satellite monitoring of both certified and non-certified sources facilitates a successful outcome of the palm oil rainforest deforestation issue, among the many more capabilities of data-driven analytics.
Satellite imagery provides accurate information on environmental disasters. Use cases of natural calamities spatial monitoring in 2020 promote weighted decisions in ecological tragedy response.
GIS mapping is a widely used technology for geospatial data analysis and visualization. Take a closer look at the modern practice of interactive mapping for better decision-making.
Basic steps for geospatial analysis implementation and the scope of its applications. Benefits for situation awareness, tracing changes and prognosis.
World Space Week 2020 aims to hightlight the benefits satellite technology brings to humanity: improving our everyday lives via enormous contribution to various fields and industries.
Monitoring of extended territories that are located near or on the edges of scenes is difficult. A new Mosaic tool on LandViewer helps to overcome most of the challenges a user faces.
For all players of the modern agricultural market (regardless of whether they are farmers, ag traders or insurers) not only is the assessment of land productivity genuinely urgent, but so is constant monitoring of its efficient use.