Worker on a Palm Oil Plantation
– photo via www.intellasia.net
While in high school and secondary school, we learnt about palm oil (Malay term – kelapa sawit) in our science classes. We were taught where and how it was planted, how oil was extracted from its fruit and what were the products derived from the palm oil. Palm oil replaced rubber and tin as Malaysia’s main export.
As city folk, we rarely ventured into plantations of any kind other than our garden. Parents fearing wild animal attacks, malaria and dengue would rarely allow children to venture into any plantations.
Over the weekend, we were invited to watch a couple of short films/videos to dispel the overly negative perception of palm oil production, or rather its plantation expansion that many of the western environmental activists and palm oil competitors are propagating. The event and competition was organized by Fried Chillies. Adly the head honcho of Fried Chillies was inspired by his father’s advice to spread the merits of palm oil and how it has helped the Malaysian economy. After the short video presentation, the AFC program “Palm oil – Good fat, Bad fat?” was screened. We felt the program was well written and produced, highlighted the pros and cons of palm oil plantation. This program also provided another impetus for Chillies to create the short video competition and the awareness campaign on palm oil plantation benefits.
As with any issues, there are many facets to consider.
We thought we’d list down information on the use of palm oil, the plantations and its repercussions on social, political, economic and environmental issues, for our readers to learn and to ponder.
A Malaysian Palm Oil Plantation
– photo via www.digitaldelimma.com
Palm oil, long perceived as an unhealthy tropical oil, is actually a beneficial fat source when in its natural form. It is true that it is high in saturated fatty acids, but, is palm oil good for you? Unrefined palm oil remains a much healthier oil than any hydrogenated vegetable oil.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the Elaeis guineensuis tree, also called the African oil palm tree. Palm oil is the most versatile of all vegetable oils. Consisting of 50% saturated fat and 50% unsaturated fat it is semi-solid at room temperature. It is also odorless and tasteless. These two properties have made palm oil ideal for baked goods and packaged foods. Palm oil also works well with fried foods and stir-fry because its quality doesn’t diminish under extremely high heat. Unlike most nutritional oils, palm oil is highly resistant to oxidation, giving it a longer shelf life.
– photo via www.guardian.co.uk
Not only is palm oil a rare source of medium chain fatty acids, it is also a source of healthy unsaturated fats. As a vegetable oil, palm oil is a cholesterol free food. It is a well-balanced fat, with 39% oleic acid (omega-9) and 10% linoleic acid (omega-6). These essential fatty acids help to lower blood cholesterol levels in the body. They are necessary for bone, joint, and skin health.
Green peace has launched an all out campaign saying that Palm Oil is the greatest current threat to Orangutans. Vast areas of habitat are cleared for Palm Oil plantations every day. Protecting this land is critical to the Orangutans survival. The fact is , that deforestation is a big threat to the Orang-Utan. Not Palm Oil per se.
Malaysian Love the Orang Utan and are proud of these adorable, lovable creatures.
The Orang Utan
photo via www.forest.sabah.gov.my
The tourism industry is growing from strength to strength in Malaysia and provides so many jobs for the Malaysians, why would we harm our own Orangutan? We have sanctuaries in East Malaysia that protect the Orang Utan. There are many flaws in the Green Peace claims and I urge you to think this through for yourselves.
Read more about the wonderful Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center in Malaysia here and how to go about visiting this place here.
If we do not do something pro-active and defend our stand on Palm Oil ASAP, then the voice that is heard more clearly will overwhelm the truth and one day, Malaysian may have no more Palm Oil to sustain the economy that provides income and a lively-hood for millions and millions of people. We do not want the situation to degenerate to this UGLY state so we URGE the Palm Oil Industry to stand up and start stating the facts.
We feel that if the Palm Oil Industry is actively contributing to the protection of this species then the priority would be for plantations to make serious effort to establish forest corridors throughout their estates to link isolated forests that are still home to orang-utans. For example the recent 2009 Orang-utan Colloquium organized in Kota Kinabalu asked for the establishment of a contiguous corridor of forest for an absolute minimum of 100 meters along the river bank. Such a corridor would go a long way to assisting orang-utan crossing the oil palm landscape when they disperse as well as other wildlife such as the Bornean Elephant which is only found in Sabah and on the border with Indonesian Kalimantan.
Recreating forest corridors along the river would provide the animals with pathways and food.
We feel that people should not be arguing against the economical value of palm oil and its possible contribution for development but rather to do the right thing, in the right manner, and focus on the issue of sustainable palm oil alongside preserving the eco-system.
Adly of Fried Chillies shares his views:
Links you might like:
Palm Oil Shorties
The Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary