• Hans van Mameren

Palm oil fetish and the blame game

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

In the North-South debate no subject is debated as heatedly as that on Palm Oil. And although both sides have strong arguments, there seems to be no solution. Mono cultures are not good for the soil. Nor is destroying the jungle, but leaving people starve or living in poverty is not good either. It is true, big companies make lots of money on palm oil but there are also many small-holder farmers who make a living out of it. And their income is not large at all. Criticizing and boycotting doesn’t serve a meal to their children.

For many regions it is not just about mono-cultures, it is also about mono-economy. And when regenerative agriculture is a solution for these areas, so will be another type of economy. We already have a name for it: “Circular Economy”. It only needs to be built throughout these regions and further.

Palm oil is used in many products but after the first refining at the plantations it is shipped to other regions where the raw oil is processed into usable ingredients for various industries, adding a lot of value of which the small-holder farmer sees nothing.

The same goes more or less for illegal logging. A good friend of mine taught the loggers this:

· When you cut a tree, drag it to your village and sell it to a merchant you get 50 dollars.

· When you cut a tree, drag it to your village, saw it into planks and sort them on quality you make 200 dollars.

· When you cut a tree, drag it to your village, saw it into planks and make a cupboard from the best planks, you make 500 dollars.

I will find you a saw machine, teach how to make a table and sell it for you on the internet.

All developed nations roam the world for cheap commodities, palm oil, soy, cobalt, lithium, bauxite, iron ore, nickel ore. Drag it in ships to their own premises for upgrading. Leaving the original owner with degraded land, dead mining pits and only a little money in the pocket. They can then buy the products made from their own commodities and give back the little money they got.

Circular Economy has many facets. When interpreted as above, only part of the money is circulating. Most is kept at one place and contributes to more inequality. But in a real “Circular Economy” all parties involved get their equal share of sources, products and profits.

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