KUCHING: As officials prepare to conclude the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, small oil palm farmers in the country have launched a campaign called ‘Human Faces of Palm Oil’.
According to an emailed statement, the campaign’s aim is to inform consumers, policymakers and stakeholders on how they are practising sustainable development in local villages and communities across the country.
A joint project by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), National Association of Smallholders (NASH) and the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra), it is an international campaign to bring the story of Malaysia’s small oil palm farmers and their prosperity to stakeholders throughout the world.
The new campaign features testimonials of these farmers and the vital role that palm oil had played in improving their lives. More than 300,000 small farmers nationwide depend on palm oil for income and social benefits such as healthcare, education and infrastructure development.
The palm oil industry has been very successful at reducing poverty in Malaysia, contributing more than RM83billion (USD 26 billion) to the nation’s Gross National Income, while more than 40 per cent of land under oil palm is cultivated by small farmers, reflecting the important role these producers play in the sustainable development of Malaysia.
As participants in the Rio+20 Conference consider proposals to strengthen sustainable development, they should consider what the National Association of Small Holders (NASH) president Dato Aliasak Ambia said in a video featured on www.facesofpalmoil.org.
“In 1970, you just think, in our country 49.3 per cent were in poverty. In 2007, it fell to 5.6 per cent, and now it’s 2 per cent.”
Rebecca Lambert, a small farmer who inherited her land from her grandfather and is a participant in the Salcra scheme, welcomed the prosperity that has followed the establishment of oil palm plantations in her community.
Not only has the cultivation of palm oil improved the lives of her family members, but she believed “the opportunity is good for our village as well.”
However, the statement noted that the benefits appeared to be largely ignored by opponents of palm oil, especially Western environmental NGOs, which directly affect mostly the small farmers.
When asked about the claims by environmental NGOs against the industry, Thomas Lamit Lutek, a retired small farmer and participant in, Salcra, remarked: “We do not destroy our forests. We do not destroy wildlife. But the NGOs are different people. They are being paid by somebody else just to discredit us. But then, we have to live. We must earn our living.”
The statement went on to say the new prosperity in Malaysia is being replicated around the world, largely driven by Malaysia’s exemplary model.
“Come and visit the Human Faces of Palm Oil to hear firsthand accounts from Malaysian small time farmers about their prosperity from cultivating oil palm,” it said.
Meanwhile, a quick check on the website found that there were several video clips which provide firsthand accounts from palm oil small time farmers throughout the country who have benefitted economically and socially from oil palm cultivation.
For more information about Human Faces of Palm Oil, visit www.facesofpalmoil.org.