This post originally appeared in the Jakarta Post.
Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.
The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.
There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.