Malthus Postponed: The potential to promote palm oil production in Africa
& Inna Ali
Published: June 2011
The authors examine the potential to promote palm oil production in the tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Given world population pressures and soaring food prices, the need to grow more food has never been more urgent. Palm oil cultivation offers one possible route to meet this demand; it also has a variety of other uses, notably biofuel. Major investors are committing substantial sums to develop palm oil plantations throughout West Africa. However, this major driver of economic growth has triggered controversy, particularly from environmental NGOs. The article assesses how far these criticisms are valid. In the process, four key challenges surrounding the development of plantation crops are identified. The REDD initiative – aimed at restricting forest land conversion for commercial purposes – is analysed and a number of practical hurdles to successful implementation are highlighted. The authors conclude that large-scale commercial plantation agriculture clearly has a major contribution to make in resolving the rapidly emerging global food crisis.