Oil Palm in Indonesia


John D. Watts and Silvia Irawan


Tropical deforestation, forest fires, and peatland degradation in Indonesia are a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is one of the more
visible and profitable agricultural commodities driving the expansion of industrial and small-scale plantations into forest and peatland areas. Although they are not the primary driver of deforestation, oil palm plantations are the last and most profitable phase of a land governance system that incentivizes the degradation and eventual conversion of natural forests, beginning with forestry concessions. Especially in Southeast Asia, oil palm cultivation has become synonymous with tropical deforestation and subject to numerous environmental campaigns, including calls for boycotts and other measures to discourage its use. Free from deforestation and social conflicts, sustainably produced palm oil has become the aspired goal for many consumers, buyers, and governments, reinforced through zero-deforestation commodity supply chain pledges. The most effective path for ensuring the sustainability of palm oil, which should trigger a broad-scale reduction in the rates of deforestation, remains elusive.