Conserving Gabon’s Cultural Heritage
A treasure trove of 14th century artefacts was discovered deep within a conservation area of Olam’s palm plantation in Gabon.
We operate oil palm plantations in Gabon – Awala and Mouila are have been established since 2011; Makouke is an older plantation acquired by Olam in 2016; whilst Ndende is a new planting developed 100% in grasslands to incorporate cooperative smallholders.
In developing our plantations, we conducted detailed independent third-party assessments on selected lands to assess the suitability from an agricultural, biodiversity and social perspective in order to meet the requirements of our Sustainable Palm Oil Policy. Olam identified and set aside 50 per cent of our concession as conservation area.
From an overall concession area of 202,000 hectares (ha), we have planted 64,000 ha which includes the rehabilitation of an oil palm plantation acquired from SIAT in 2016. We are protecting 99,000 ha of High Conservation Value forest and other areas such as buffer zones.
In 2011 we were the first company to apply the RSPO’s new plantings procedures in Africa for the Awala plantation. To date 112,455 ha of our palm plantations in Gabon are RSPO certified and we are on track to achieve 100 per cent RSPO certification of our operations in Gabon by 2021. Gabon’s lands are also protected through a National Parks network (11% of land area), and all forestry concessions are subject to the country’s sustainable forestry laws.
The investment in palm plantations in Gabon has created employment opportunities for about 6,000 Gabonese nationals, of whom many had never previously had permanent employment. We have invested heavily in training to develop the range of new skills required on a palm plantation and its associated activities.
Earning the social license to operate is integral to the successful long-term development and management of plantations. Regular and open engagement with our local communities is vital for our continued success. From the outset, we have committed to a fully inclusive process with communities to ensure Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This process means we regularly engage and have established social contracts with 60 villages in the proximity of the plantations.
For information and our response to World Rainforest Movement’s petition about Olam’s palm plantations in Gabon click here.
Using technology, such as drones, we monitor palm stands, plant health, field condition and conservation area. Olam's digital tools enable management intervention and enhance productivity. Mechanised spraying and fertiliser application has significantly increased productivity and uniformity.
In Gabon we have invested in a Centre of Excellence which undertakes testing and analysis of plant tissues, soils, fertilisers and water, the lab is partnering with the Wageningen Evaluating Programs for Analytical Laboratories (WEPAL), to ensure quality lab results.
Managing palm plantations in a biodiversity rich country like Gabon requires extensive efforts to support and safeguard the country’s natural heritage.