Focus on Gabon
Setting the standard for responsible plantation development in Africa
All of our palm and rubber plantation developments are in joint ventures with the Republic of Gabon. The Government was looking for a business partner to help develop an agricultural economy, to reduce its reliance on finite oil and gas exports and food imports (60%) and create jobs (33% live at or below the poverty line) as well as support cooperative smallholder programmes. From our side, Olam recognised that Gabon had ideal agri-climatic conditions and soil for growing oil palm and rubber, and that the Government shared our strong sustainability ethic.
As Gabon is 88% forest cover, the Government decided to make available a small percentage of its most degraded forests for large-scale agriculture, which has already provided thousands of jobs.
How we approach sustainable palm plantation development in a highly forested country
- Select broad areas in landscapes that are far from national parks and where the natural environment has already been degraded
- Within specific sites, ensure that we identify the land that is of High Conservation Value (HCV) for biodiversity, community or cultural reasons
- Prioritise the ‘least value’ land for development and invest heavily in conserving the high value areas. We actively manage these HCV areas, helping to prevent poaching and illegal hunting
- Engage the local communities to ensure that they agree with our analysis and with the project
- Validate our assessments through broad-based consultations with NGOs and experts
- Create positive social and economic impact in the local communities through employment, capacity building, and rural infrastructure development
- Ensure we are 100% RSPO1 compliant from new planting through to mill completion with no burning for land clearance
- All of the above applies to the smallholder programme GRAINE. Cooperatives receive ongoing training in environmental practices including the conservation of forests.
1 Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Environmental mapping: our technical approach
Olam uses plane-based laser imaging technology known as LiDAR for large-scale, high resolution mapping of our concessions to support spatial planning of plantations, conservation areas and buffer zones. LiDAR allows us to map the terrain (slopes, elevation, streams, rivers and water bodies), and provides rich information on the vegetation cover including biomass and carbon estimates. These can be ‘ground-truthed’ (checked by collecting information from the features at the location) by field observations made through traditional biodiversity surveys, allowing accurate large-scale mapping of land cover types.
First new palm development in Africa to achieve RSPO certification
The Awala plantation of 6,822 ha lies within a 20,000 ha lease, the remainder of which is actively managed by Olam Palm Gabon for conservation of biodiversity and forest carbon, and protection of water catchments, in fulfilment of RSPO requirements. At the time of certification, Awala boosted Africa’s RSPO certified production hectares by 30%. Once fully developed, the Mouila plantations (Lots 1-3) will achieve certification by 2021.
Helping villages to thrive – Olam Rubber Gabon
As with our palm operations, Olam Rubber Gabon has signed social contracts – there are 3 contracts with 24 villages (Bitam – 7 villages, Bikondom – 7 villages, and Minvoul – 10 villages). The Social Contract is based on 3 pillars:
- Development of basic social infrastructure
- Establishment of a programme to support income-generating activities carried out by local populations (including support for smallholder farmers and a fresh produce market)
- Priority hiring of local populations on an equal skills basis.
Olam has supported social projects in the villages at a cost to date of more than 1.3 billion CFA (> US$2 million), addressing priority needs such as schools and educational materials, teacher housing, dispensaries, water pumps, solar lighting, a fresh produce market, road maintenance, bridges, and various sports and leisure facilities.
The full report is available to download here.