Seven African Governments Sign the TFA 2020 Marrakesh Declaration for the Sustainable Development of the Oil Palm Sector in Africa
16 November – Marrakech, Morocco – The governments of seven African palm oil producing countries have made a joint pledge to prioritize sustainable palm oil development with support from some of the world’s largest producers, buyers and traders of palm oil.
The TFA 2020 Marrakesh Declaration for the Sustainable Development of the Oil Palm Sector in Africa was signed by the Governments of the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Morocco.
The Ministers of Agriculture and Environment signing the pledge agreed to place sustainability, human rights and collaboration with industry, indigenous peoples and civil society groups at the heart of the expanding palm oil industry in Africa. Large companies, palm oil producers, NGOs and human rights groups who are partners of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) welcomed the move in a joint statement.
More than 250 million hectares of tropical forest—13% of global cover—are located in the countries who signed the declaration. However, deforestation from unsustainable palm oil production causes extensive carbon emissions and contributes to global warming.
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil worldwide and about half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets contain palm oil, according to the World Wildlife Fund. It fuels a $50 billion global industry, which is projected to rise to $88 billion a year by 2022. As demand grows, Africa is the next growth spot for palm oil production.
The Marrakesh Declaration is part of an ongoing public-private partnership taking place in Africa under the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative. It represents a public acknowledgement that, while investment in Africa’s palm oil sector has the potential to deliver economic benefits to the region, it also brings the risk of significant social and environmental problems, including deforestation, land conflicts, human rights abuses and the destruction of high conservation values.
Nick Hurd, UK Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, announced the UK’s ongoing support for the TFA2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative at the signing ceremony. “The Marrakech Declaration will enable West and Central African countries to work with companies such as Unilever to secure sustainable jobs and livelihoods, support food security in the region, and prevent environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation,” he said.
Unilever welcomed the move. “Palm oil, if produced sustainably, can play a key role in poverty alleviation by helping farmers thrive economically while adopting sustainable agricultural and business practices. I am pleased that these countries are demonstrating their commitment to sustainable palm oil by signing the Marrakesh Declaration,” said Paul Polman, Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer.
Since 2014, Proforest, a non-profit group, has coordinated the initiative with companies, governments and civil society organizations. They include the Consumer Goods Forum and its members Unilever and Nestlé; palm oil producing companies, such as Sime Darby and Wilmar, and a wide range of civil society organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund, Solidaridad, Conservation International and the World Resource Institute.
The next step for the initiative is to support the widespread implementation of responsible palm oil, as adopted in Marrakesh by national governments, to deliver real transformational change.