Opinion

Palm oil, a driver for development or a cause of ecological disaster?

Jon McNaughton

Moving towards environmentally and producer friendly palm oil

You’ve probably heard the story – large sections of rainforest replaced with palm oil plantations to satiate the world’s hunger for palm oil. You’ve probably heard about habitats destroyed, animals harmed and biodiversity tarnished.

If you’ve dug a little deeper you might also know how incredibly common palm oil is – how it’s in around half of the products we buy. You might have found out that it’s often labelled simply as vegetable oil – so that the problem remains hidden.

All of this weighs heavy on the conscience. But palm oil is cheap and incredibly versatile – so for large companies, the benefits often outweigh the environmental cost. So is there anything that can be done?

Well at Traidcraft, we’ve decided to become part of the solution. We now use our very own palm oil – called FairPalm – and it’s designed to be different.

Where most palm oil is mass produced, Fairpalm is grown by smallholder farmers. Where most palm oil comes from artificial plantations in the Far East, FairPalm comes from West Africa – where oil palm plants grow naturally. FairPalm is certified as fair trade under the Fair for Life certification scheme.

You can find it in our Clean & Fair cleaning range but also in our cookies – and that’s just the start of our plans for FairPalm. And although it’s still in its early stages, already it’s making a difference to people’s lives…

Daniel Nyano is just one of these people. He grows palm cane naturally in Ghana, alongside other crops, and sells it directly to Serendipalm, that processes the cane and extracts the oil. That’s how FairPalm is created – it’s a simple as that. Here’s what it means to Daniel:  

“I enjoy selling palm cane. I sell direct, there is no middleman, so the price is fair. I have a better life, I want to do well.”

Smallholder farmers working for the Serendipalm cooperative in Ghana are encouraged to grow oil palm plants alongside other crops. Food security and biodiversity are kept high priority to ensure that FairPalm is sustainably grown. Farmers also get a fair price for their produce – justly rewarded for all their hard work.

And every time you buy a product with FairPalm instead of harmful palm oils, you’re making a statement that you want to live in a fairer, cleaner, more natural world. We’re so passionate about FairPalm because it is demonstrating a different way to make products – one that is good for both people and planet.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.