Development miracle or environmental disaster? A look behind the oil palm controversy

16 October 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya — To the agro-food industry and smallholder farmers in the tropics, it’s a veritable miracle plant.

To many NGOs and indigenous groups, it’s a grave threat to land rights and to the environment.

So which is it? How can a single plant — the oil palm — cause such a divergence of viewpoints?

These are the questions that Alain Rival and Patrice Levang tackle in their book, “Palms of controversies: Oil palm and development challenges,” newly translated into English and published online by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“The problem,” the authors write, “is not the oil palm but the way people have chosen to exploit it.”rgence of viewpoints?

Read more from CIFOR