M. Lorraine Tighe, PhD
Dr. Tighe has a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences, a graduate degree in Remote Sensing and GIS, and a B.Sc. in Physics and Geology. Dr. Tighe has delivered lectures ranging from a half day workshop to a 4 week training program to over 2000 participants in USA, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, … More »
Sustainable Oil Palm Cultivation – A true possibility?
October 4th, 2013 by M. Lorraine Tighe, PhD
Palm oil is a vegetable oil used globally in processed foods like cooking oil, chocolate bars, ice cream, instant noodles, and margarine. Palm oil derivatives are common ingredients in many personal care products such as cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and detergents. Finally, palm oil can also be used as a biofuel (http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/biofuels-green-dream-or-climate-change-nightmare-20070509) because they are an attractive quick fix to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Oil palm crops are considered a wonder crop because they yield more oil per hectare of land than any other crop in the world and they have 25 – 28 year lifespan. Moreover, they rely on fewer fertilizers, pesticides, and water compared to other monoculture crops. Thus, it should come as no surprise that palm oil has emerged as the main global source of vegetable oil (33% of the world’s vegetable oil) and an attractive biofuel due to adequate availability and versatility in usage and lower cost. To add to palm oil’s positive attributes, the palm oil industry is a source of considerable social benefits as it provides employment in rural areas and contributes to economic development in producer countries.
Indonesia and Malaysia seen as the world’s largest producers of palm oil, supplying not only foreign markets but also substantial domestic demand for this vegetable oil (USDA, 2012). If the cultivation of oil palm crops is planned carefully, the development of palm oil can lead to strong economic development, often resulting in a reduction in rural poverty. If not, the expansion of palm oil plantations will result in deforestation, wildlife and biodiversity loss and community conflicts, negative impacts on the livelihoods of local communities and indigenous people, in addition to accelerating climate change.
Continued globally awareness is needed to promote sustainable oil palm production where all companies that produce, trade, or use palm oil need to move towards sustainable palm oil that does not involve sacrificing the remaining tropical forests or contribute to global warming. In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO; http://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/palmoil#sthash.J0UHmG2Z.dpuf) formed to promote sustainably produced palm oil across the entire oil palm life cycle. RSPO and is members have developed and implemented global standards for sustainable palm oil, whereby in June 2011, 4.5 million tons of palm oil, or ten per cent of global output, was RSPO certified.
Remotely sensed data (http://www.intermap.com/blog/oil-palm-plant-phenological-stages-identified-using-high-resolution-radar-imagery/) can help to educate farmers and corporations to perform sustainable oil palm practices that ensure high yield on less land. Likewise, to safeguard the biodiversity in oil palm-producing countries, more fine-scale and spatially explicit remotely sensed data on land-use change is needed to determine the extent and nature of any further conversion of forests to oil palm. Such information could help to protect secondary forests against conversion to oil palm and to limit future expansion of oil palm agriculture to pre-existing cropland or degraded habitats.
Category: Geospatial Application
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