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Africa’s Forests €?threatened By Palm Oil Rush’

Still, despite the slow pace of land development and withdrawal of some of the companies that were at the forefront of the initial rush into Africa, most of the concessions still exist on paper. According to Chain Reaction Research, more than 450,000 hectares (1.11 million acres) of large-scale industrial palm plantations are operational on the continent. More than 300,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of them are owned by just five companies: Socfin, Wilmar, Olam, Siat, and Straight KKM.

Africa’s forests ‘threatened by palm oil rush’

The habitats of Asia's only great apes are fast disappearing under the chainsaw to make way for oil palm plantations and other agricultural plantations. Illegal logging inside protected areas and unsustainable logging in concessions where orangutans live remains a major threat to their survival. Today, more than 50% of orangutans are found outside protected areas in forests under management by timber, palm oil and mining companies.

Paradoxically, palm oil production is threatened by global warming, too. Not only do some palm varieties grow poorly in warmer temperatures, but flooding from rising sea levels also threatens palm-oil-producing countries like Indonesia (14).

African forests, like many others, are threatened by over-exploitation, conversion to other land uses and climate change. Many will likely disappear or be degraded to such an extent as to pass tipping points and become something else, something less.

Also threatened are an additional 1 million hectares of peat forests,which may burn for decades. Environmentalists calculate that if onlythe top 10 centimetres were to burn, it would release an additional 20million tonnes of CO2 into the air.

"Pouring money into commercial banks that are driven only by profit motivations isnot the way to foster sustainable development," said Marc Ona Essangui, ExecutiveDirector of Brainforest and winner of the Goldman environmental prize in 2009. "InGabon, this development model has instead enabled a massive expansion of industrialpalm oil, which threatens our food security and the ecological balance of CongoBasin's ancient rainforests."

US-owned agribusiness Herakles Farms has ignored the objections of scientists and activists to go ahead with a 600 million USD oil palm plantation. The venture calls for the razing of 73,000 hectares of dense natural forests.


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