Society for Conservation Biology warns that Africa could follow Southeast Asia in losing substantial amounts of its forest
Africa’s people, forests and wildlife are in trouble if the mostly unbridled expansion of oil palm in West and Central Africa is allowed to continue unchecked, says an organization of African scientists.
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) issued the call in late January for better engagement by government leaders, companies, and conservation scientists themselves as oil palm development swells. It comes amid a growing chorus of concerned researchers and activists who want to see processes that take human health, economics and the environment into consideration when deciding where large-scale oil palm plantations should be allowed, before it’s too late.
Many chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes, Endangered) in East Africa live in habitat threatened by oil palm expansion. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
“In fact this advocacy should have started 5 years ago or earlier,” Stephen Awoyemi, lead author of the statement and president of the Africa Section of the organization told mongabay.com. “Now, the rate of industrial oil palm expansion in West and Central Africa is rapid, gathering significant momentum and driven by new levels of demand for palm oil by international economic actors.”
Agriculture tops the list of deforestation drivers, along with logging and timber exploitation, urbanization and industrialization. In the first decade of this century, the continent lost more than half a million hectares of rainforest, and nearly 3.5 million in all – an area considerably larger than Belgium – according the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Awoyemi and his colleagues wrote the statement to “highlight the rapid and unsustainable destruction of forests due to industrial oil palm expansion in West and Central Africa.” The fear is that Africa’s tropical forests will go the way of those in Southeast Asia. Indonesia won’t have much natural forest left by 2022, if