Some 400 policymakers, businesses and NGOs from Asia, Europe, Africa and South America have been gathering in Bali in a three-day meeting since Wednesday to discuss a more sustainable palm oil industry. The International Conference on Oil Palm and the Environment (ICOPE), jointly organized by PT SMART, CIRAD Agricultural Research for Development and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, this year carries the theme “Oil palm cultivation: Becoming a model for tomorrow’s sustainable agriculture”.
Participants in the biennial forum sought to respond to challenges in making policies and formulating models of palm oil industry development that minimize deforestation, mitigate greenhouse gas effects, produce solutions for land uses, conserve biodiversity and empower farmers, said Daud Dharsono, chairman of steering committee of ICOPE 2014. “All stakeholders in the forum believe palm oil is an important sector that provides a significant contribution to the country’s economy. The products of the palm oil industry are the answer to the world’s needs for food and energy.
Therefore, this sector should be managed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” he said. “Through this forum, we seek alternative ways to make the palm oil industry become a model for sustainable agriculture that will economically benefit and be friendly to the environment,” he went on. Agriculture Minister Suswono, who officially opened the forum, said the government expected palm oil companies to be able to meet the deadline of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification by the end of this year.
He also spoke of developing zero-waste practices in palm oil plantations, where all the waste and by-products from the industry would be used for cattle farming. “During recent years, we have integrated the palm oil industry with cattle farming, where all the waste and by-products of the palm oil industry are processed into cattle food and the cattle manure is used as organic fertilizer for palm oil plantations. This will minimize the use of chemicals and thus will be more environmentally friendly.” He hoped such practices would mark another achievement in the palm oil industry toward sustainability.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan called on the palm oil industry not to buy fruit bunches picked from plantations that were located within “protected forests” and “conserved forests”. “By not having any company buying from them, irresponsible local residents and plantation owners will hopefully stop encroaching on the forests,” he said, adding that this was part of the “soft power” approach to protect the country’s forests, which was considered more effective than using “hard power”.
He said the ministry had also implemented its High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) policy in forest areas allowed to be converted into plantations, in an effort to minimize conflicts between humans and animals as well as to protect forest biodiversity. Environment Minister Baltashar Kambuaya hoped the haze that occurred last year in palm oil areas caused by the burning of abandoned land would not be repeated. “The palm oil industry should follow the lead of several companies in terms of a zero burning policy and a forest conservation policy.
To conserve nature, stringent rules should be implemented without any negotiations.” He said the ministry had recently won a case against several plantation companies that had carried out illegal fires in Rawa Tripa, Aceh province, with the companies now having to pay a considerable amount to fund environmental restoration. “This will send a clear message to other companies that illegal burning practices are not worth implementing,” he said. WWF Indonesia CEO Efransjah said the improvement of cultivation practices was key to transforming the negative image that had stuck to the palm oil industry.
“Changing this negative image cannot be done solely by the businesses. It needs strong support from the government and civil society,” he said. “As part of civil society and as a counterpart of businesses, WWF Indonesia strongly supports efforts to change the palm oil industry so it becomes more responsible.”
source : bali daily