Approach to land development
Olam’s Palm Oil production operations are today largely in Gabon. Gabon’s natural riches are well protected through an effective National Parks network (11% of land area), and within the extensive forestry concessions that are subject to sustainable forestry laws. In the past, Gabon’s economic dependence on fossil fuel exports, comprising about 50% of GDP, had led to under-investment in agriculture, and despite having a population of just 1.6 million people, 60% of the food consumed in Gabon is imported.
Gabon is now looking to agriculture to diversify its economy, reduce its food imports, increase food security, reduce rural poverty and create job opportunities – especially for the 26% of the population who are unemployed.
In 2010, Olam entered into a joint venture with the Republic of Gabon to develop RSPO certified palm plantations. (The ownership structure started at 70:30 for Olam:Republic of Gabon and subsequently evolved to 60:40). We have progressively improved our site selection process, working with the Government of Gabon on a landscape scale approach to select the most suitable land with high economic potential and low environmental and social impacts. Selected lands must then be assessed in great detail at the site level for suitability from an agricultural, biodiversity and social perspective in order to meet the requirements of our Olam Sustainable Palm Oil Policy, including our Commitment to Forest Conservation.
Phase 1 therefore commenced in 2011 and seeks to plant 50,000 hectares – to date 44,000 hectares have been planted. However, we are currently managing a total area of 111,419 hectares, because more than 50% of the land has been set aside as protected High Conservation Value (HCV) areas, riparian buffers and wetlands. We now additionally have 8,411 hectares, including 5,809 hectares of plantation that were established in the 1980s. These were acquired recently are now managed by Olam Palm Gabon.
In 2015 we refreshed our Olam Sustainable Palm Oil Policy and can report the following achievements in line with our commitments:
- Targeting 100% RSPO certification (Our Awala plantation was the first new development in Africa to achieve certification, with Mouila on track for 2017)
- Completion of full, independent Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and High Conservation Value assessments for all new palm plantations prior to any development activity, and publishing findings via olamgroup.com
- Protection of rare species, important ecosystems and local communities lands and forests, – all of these concession lands are secondary forests with no commercial value. These have been logged over or otherwise disturbed at some point in the past, and subjected to strong hunting pressures. Demonstrating our strong commitment to forest conservation, through robust, independent third party assessments Olam has identified and set aside over 50% of the concession as conservation area.
- First company to meet the RSPO’s New Plantings requirements in Africa in 2011 for the Awala Plantation
- First company globally to meet the new HCV assessment requirements of the HCV Resource Network. This was done for Mouila Lot 3 Plantation in 2015 through assessors licensed through the HCV Assessor Licensing Scheme, and going through independent peer review
- First company globally to test the HCS+ methodology of the High Carbon Stock Study and publish the findings in the HCS+ Technical Committee’s report: the main Mouila plantations are the only plantation developments globally to be demonstrably Carbon and Climate positive, through savannah plantings and extensive HCV/HCS protection.