Beyond the Myths about Indonesia’s Deforestation

Beyond the Myths about Indonesia’s Deforestation

My warmest appreciations go to the organisers of the 1st International Conference on Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development. I got to present our latest paper, titled “Beyond the Myths about Indonesia’s Deforestation: linking oil palm cultivation to forest degradation and Sustainable Development Goals” (see the handouts of the presentation here).

Abstract. Oil palm cultivation is under scrutiny by various stakeholders, arguing that it is the main cause of Indonesia’s deforestation. This paper highlights the decades of forest degradation before the first land clearing for oil palm within the context of Indonesia’s development policies. Using ‘direct photointerpretation’ of ‘Historical Imagery’, it assesses the forest degradation and deforestation caused by oil palm cultivation in Indonesia, particularly in light of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Forest degradation has direct trade-offs with most of the SDGs, with the most affected SDGs being Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12) and Life on Land (SDG15). Historical satellite imagery indicates that the first land clearing for the 176 Kha of oil palm estates sampled palm occurred around 1994. In contrast, only half of this area contained (natural) forests in 1984 – a decade before the first land clearing. None of the remaining forests were (near) intact natural forests; all were (heavily) degraded and their biodiversity was strongly compromised. This indicates that oil palm cultivation is not linked to the degradation of Indonesia’s natural forests. Regarding SDG12, we found significant positive impacts from both the direct and indirect land-use changes by oil palm. For SDG15, we observed major positive impacts from the direct land-use changes and minor positive impacts from the indirect land-use changes. Hence, we conclude that oil palm cultivation in the sampled estates has positive impacts on Indonesia’s SDGs and Indonesia’s development policies align with its SDGs.

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