Our friends at the conservation news site Mongabay announced their 2016 reporting series on palm oil with a call to journalists to pitch stories regarding the palm oil trade and its effects on natural resources, political and economic stability, and human rights.
They list about a hundred questions to pique a journalist’s interest, on topics including activism, labor rights, biofuels, governance, legality, fiscal policy, sustainability promises, food security, and the impact on ecosystems.
We’ve asked a couple of our journalist colleagues if they want to participate in this; Mongabay also asks for feedback from local NGOs regarding field-based observations, and one of the questions they ask is something I’ve never considered before.
- Are natural forest areas surrounding plantations suffering from edge effects, incursions of invasive species or degradation from displacement of wildlife and movement or foraging species like pigs?
JMD and the women cocoa farmers have been extremely successful in reducing the amount of damage caused by pests and diseases. The “pests” in question are primarily monkeys and pigs (I’ve talked about this in previous posts.) Nearly round-the-clock perimeter checks of the farms during pre-harvest season has helped salvage a lot of what used to be lost, but it’s exhausting work and the farmers have complained that there just seem to be more and more monkeys and pigs. And now we know why: these animals are being displaced from other parts of the forest as the palm oil plantations burrow further and further into protected and public land. Robert and Junaidi predict that the elephants will start to come out of the forest next—and there’s no chasing them back where they came from.
We’re going to see if Mongabay is interested in this angle; it’s just another way that the palm oil plantations destroy the opportunity for any other small and medium-scale carbon-neutral livelihood to succeed in this part of Aceh. Foraging animals have always been a problem, but palm oil has tripled the problem. Hopefully these articles will help stem the expansion of what is truly an environmental disaster.