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12 Dec 2016

Vaidehi Shah, Eco-Business

Green groups and Olam at loggerheads over deforestation

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In a report titled ‘Palm Oil’s Black Box’ and released on Monday, US-based non-government organisation Mighty and Gabonese NGO Brainforest alleged that Ollam...is failing to live up to industry-standard sustainability norms in two key areas, zero deforestation and supply chain transparency...Olam...released a statement vehemently refuting allegations that it has destroyed ecologically valuable forest for oil palm development, and reiterating the role of its operations in alleviating poverty and promoting development in the Central African country...The report, which was produced through supply chain analysis and on-the-ground investigations, alleged that the company has cleared some 20,000 hectares of rainforest in Gabon since 2012, in order to set up Africa’s largest palm oil plantations. These forests are home to threatened keystone species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants...In its response, Olam maintained that all plantation development in Gabon had taken place on degraded forest land, or savannah landscapes—not pristine rainforest. It insisted that areas for land clearing had been identified in conjunction with local communities, NGOs and experts. Sunny Verghese, Olam’s co-founder and group chief executive officer of Olam International, added: “Gabon has a right and an essential need to develop its agriculture sector to diversify its economy, improve food security to feed its people and create new livelihood opportunities, while also protecting its natural forests.” Olam’s work in Gabon contributes to each of these objectives, said Verghese. While the company has developed some 44,000 hectares of plantations in the country to date, it has also conserved 55,000 hectares of land with a high conservation value, and taken measures such as building wildlife corridors in these areas, he added.

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