A three-day Africa regional conference to discuss and agree on a shared framework for the responsible production of palm oil opened in Accra on Wednesday.
Organised by Proforest, which is leading the Initiative on behalf of Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, the workshop is being held in collaboration with the Government through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
The workshop, the first of its kind would help plan the regional initiative process leading towards signing a regional Accord at the Ministerial level on responsible palm oil production later in 2016.
The TFA 2020 is a public–private partnership bringing together companies, governments and civil society with a shared goal of reducing tropical deforestation across the globe.
Its focus is on agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, pulp and paper, and beef products, which drive more than 50 per cent of such deforestation.
Speaking at the opening session, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the TAF 2020 was part of the important process of ensuring that oil palm was produced in a way that protects the environment, bring benefits to communities, provide a conducive atmosphere for industry and businesses to grow, while contributing to Ghana’s growing economy.
He said it was the belief of the Government that the development of oil palm could be done in a more sustainable manner to help reduce the negative impacts.
Dr Alhassan said it was important that palm oil refiners, manufacturers and other actors who influenced the sector directly and indirectly come together to find ways of reducing the likely negative impacts and increase its benefits.
“We believe this can be done by joining forces with allies who share the same vision and who are ready to forge strategic, mutually beneficial partnerships to work towards set goals,” he said.
Oil Palm is known to have originated in Africa. Its cultivation has hitherto been on a small scale – primarily as village low-yield multi-crop stands.
According to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) smallholders account for 70–90% of oil palm producers in Africa.
“As we learn from ourselves and share ideas, it is my hope that we not only develop but find constructive ways of supporting the implementation of a set of regional principles for responsible oil palm development that take account of the development plans of our respective countries and Africa as a whole,” Dr Alhassan said.
“Oil palm development is about our people, our livelihood, heritage, our economy and ultimately our legacy. We don’t owe its sustainable growth only to the over six million people whose livelihood depends on it, or the consumers all over the world whose lives a better because of the oil palm but to posterity,” he added.
He said closing the gaps in the sector and producing oil palm sustainably would require concerted efforts from governments, regional bodies, research institutions, private financiers, investors, and technocrats, to ensure the proper understanding and utilization of oil palm.
He pledged government’s full support for the program.
Mr Abraham Baffoe, Africa Regional Director Proforest, said the workshop sought to build a shared understanding of TFA 2020 and the Africa Palm Oil Initiative and share ideas and experiences on promoting deforestation-free supply chains as a vital element of better economic growth and making progress towards the Global Goals.
It will also update stakeholders on progress made in the initial focal countries and develop a framework for a set of regional principles for sustainable palm oil in Africa, including a timeline for reaching a regional agreement.
Six leading palm oil producing countries in Africa including Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana are engaged in the Initiative.
Other producer countries are expected to join this first regional workshop, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.