Sustainable Palm Oil? Insights from Material Flow and Land Use Analysis in Brazil’s Production Hotspot
Negative impacts of plantation agriculture were widely recognized when the expansion of palm oil production began in Brazil. In 2010, president Lula da Silva initiated a program to foster socially and environmentally sustainable palm oil production. Our research in Brazil’s palm oil production hotspot Tomé-Açu, Para, leads us to question the success of this program. Based on data-driven analysis of material and land use and qualitative field research, we reveal unsustainable biophysical patterns and drivers of plantation expansion. In particular, we identify functional links between deforestation, pursuant use of land for cattle ranching, and (perceived) availability of plantation land. By considering the direct and indirect material and land use effects of palm oil production, we find that deforestation sustainability programs seek to avoid remains a prerequisite to plantation expansion. Material and land use patterns shape not only the biophysical but also the economic basis of rural livelihoods with implications for the environmental and the social sustainability of any further expansion of palm oil production.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2017
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