Palm oil is a global commodity that is extracted from the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis. These plantations can be found throughout Southeast Asia, however largely concentrated in Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Sumatra. The oil palm is an attractive source of livelihood for farmers, due to the high yielding compared to soy and canola.

The Problem

In 2010, Indonesia’s land-use for oil palm plantations was at 8.4 million hectares, this is juxtaposed with the 18 million hectares that the Indonesian Government has deemed suitable for plantations for current or future stakeholders in the industry. Through this booming industry, Indonesia has accumulated international attention through their rapidly increasing economy, and the mass deforestation of native rainforests as a result. 

The environmental impacts of mass palm oil plantations are extensive within Indonesia. Deforestation is the major issue that continues to negatively impact the industry. Between 2008 and 2008, 3.1 million hectares of rainforests were lost due to new oil palm plantation, with approximately half a million hectares lost every subsequent year. In addition, the imbalances in the environment are found in the forms of disturbances in the soil, the loss of carbon from biomass, as well as the accumulation of organic matter due to peat swamps for oil palm establishment. The use of agrochemicals such as fertilizers, rodenticides, and pesticides also threaten the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the region. Humans also become the subjects and experience the environmental damage of wildfires, as many have to suffer from respiratory, cardiovascular disease and death. Furthermore, 20% of wildfires across Indonesia are attributed directly to palm oil plantation practices between 1989-2008.



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