Human Faces of Palm Oil

As officials prepare to conclude the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, small oil palm farmers in Malaysia launched a new campaign, the Human Faces of Palm Oil, to inform consumers, policymakers and stakeholders how they are practising sustainable development in local villages and communities across Malaysia.

The new campaign features testimonials of Malaysian small oil palm farmers and the vital role that palm oil has played in improving their lives where more than 300,000 small farmers throughout the country depend on palm oil for income and social benefits such as healthcare, education and infrastructure development. The palm oil industry has been very successful at reducing poverty in Malaysia, contributing more than RM 83 billion (USD 26 billion) to Malaysia’s Gross National Income, while more than 40 per cent of land under oil palm is cultivated by small farmers, reflecting the important role these producers play in the sustainable development of Malaysia.

As participants in the Rio+20 Conference consider proposals to strengthen sustainable development, they should consider what the President of the National Association of Small Holders Dato’ Haji Aliasak Haji Ambia said in a video featured on the website – “In 1970, you just think, in our country 49.3 per cent were in poverty. In 2007, it fell to 5.6 per cent, and now it’s 2 per cent.
Rebecca Lambert, a small farmer who inherited her land from her grandfather and is a participant in the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA), welcomed the prosperity that has followed the establishment of oil palm plantations in her community. Not only has the cultivation of palm oil improved the lives of her family members, but believes “The opportunity is good for our village as well.”

Sadly, the benefits appear to be largely ignored by opponents of palm oil, especially Western environmental NGOs, and it is the small farmers that are most directly affected. When asked about the claims by environmental NGOs against the industry, Thomas Lamit anak Lutek, a retired small farmer and participant in SALCRA explained, “We do not destroy our forests. We do not destroy wildlife. But the NGOs, they are different people. They are being paid by somebody else just to discredit us. But then, we have to live. We must earn our living.”

The new prosperity in Malaysia is being replicated around the world, largely driven by Malaysia’s exemplary model. Come and visit the Human Faces of Palm Oil to hear firsthand accounts from Malaysian small farmers about their prosperity from cultivating oil palm.

Source : Ebeling Heffernan

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