There are about 60.000 Orang-Utans in the world – the number is shrinking. Their natural habitat has always only been the rainforests of Sumatra (less than 10.000) and Borneo (less than 50.000).
Distribution of Orang-Utans
The great apes have been in huge danger of extinction due to deforestation caused mainly by palm oil production
As deforestation has continued in the south of Borneo, the habitat of the biggest Orang-Utan population is being destroyed. Sadly, the palm oil production has doubled in the last 10 years. More than 58 million tons were sold on the world market in 2016, of which 85% were produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. The request on palm oil is rising as it has been indispensable in the fabrication of many cosmetics, edibles, biomass fuel and many other purposes. But along with the rising of industrial importance the attention to the problems of the production has emerged. Palm oil has brought along uprooting, shifting cultivation, disregard of human rights, illegal and aggressive land seizure and uncontrolled expansion of crop areas. The most sold vegetable oil in the world has been coherent with exploitation of natural and human resources. In contrast to other agricultural areas less than 1% of the commodity comes from sustainable sources.
Clearing forests on Sumatra
Ghana broke through this pattern
However a Ghanaian palm oil producer called Serendipalm started a fair trade project in the rural region between Accra and Kumasi. There are no pesticides or herbicides used in the production and neither primary nor secondary forest gets cut down for palm plantations. By also growing citrus fruits and cocoa the 700 family farms have not only been given the chance to sell other agricultural products but the emerging problems of a monoculture were guarded against. The project was originally initiated by the cosmetics producer Dr. Bronner’s back in 2009. Since then Serendipalm has been paying fair wages for workers (25% higher than regional average) and farmers have been gotten paid 10% higher prices than on local markets. Additionally free training courses in eco-farming have been offered. The farmers got high-yielding seedlings and organic fertilizer for free in exchange to selling the palm fruits to Serendipalm. The fair trade company has also medically and socially insured the workers and their families. Furthermore the palm oil manufacturer has given away interest-free micro-loans and promoted development aid like building schools or water supply wells as well as supporting local hospitals, installing a library, a police station and many sanitary facilities. At the moment a Montessori-nursery is in the planning stages.
Selling palm oil to Serendipalm means a significant improvement of living conditions for the communities. Many people who have left the villages near the places of production to find work in the cities of Accra or Kumasi now came back due to the new high quality workplaces.
It is in our hands
By scrutinizing our consumer’s behavior about where ingredients like palm oil come from and under what conditions they are produced, we transcend the pattern of passive exploitative consumption that is destroying communities and ecosystems around the world. We become conscious active consumers with the power to shape a fair economy and make the world a moer sustainable home. Choosing to purchase fair trade and organic products is a crucial way to promote and support a way of production that is consistent with a harmonious philosophy of life. Serendipalm is setting an example of sustainability in one of the world’s most environmentally damaging agricultural industries.
Elephants feeding at the palm plantations