Sustainable Palm Oil Production project synthesis: Understanding and anticipating global challenges

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Key messages

  • Several sustainability certification schemes have been developed for palm oil; however, the field impacts of these schemes remain highly uncertain. The Sustainable Palm Oil Production (SPOP) project, funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR), was aimed at consolidating and deepening the scientific basis of these schemes.
  • SPOP field work undertaken in Indonesia and Cameroon highlighted the large variability in practices and impacts of oil palm systems. Our main results related to the uncovering of the multiplicity of growers and their trajectories, and identifying room for improvement and the need for recommendations adapted to the various grower contexts and strategies.
  • The SPOP project made it explicit that visions of sustainability and global challenges vary greatly among growers and other stakeholders involved in the palm oil sector. These diverging conceptions are most likely to induce bottlenecks in the definition and implementation of good practices and should be accounted for in the refinement of sustainability criteria.
  • Within the SPOP project, we investigated possible futures for oil palm using participatory prospective analyses and multi-agent-based modeling work. Our research work showed that capacity development and the organizational capacity of smallholders, fair partnerships and combined forms of governance are key drivers in ensuring the uptake of good practices and sustainable development at the landscape scale.


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