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Rimba Raya is holding back the palm in Indonesia.

October 2, 2018

Rimba Raya Reserve

The September edition of the ‘Personal Care Ingredients’ magazine Asia-Pacific edition contains a small story on page 6 about a couple of manufacturers, Sederma and Crodarom, part of Croda International Plc,  that have become carbon neutral. I  read on, my eyes scanning towards the word ‘Indonesia’ and ‘Biodiversity Reserve’ and I started to get excited as I realised that this was the area that I’d worked in all those years ago! This was a project in Central Kalimantan, a regenerative project that is actually turning the Palm Oil story into a story of Forest protection, Indonesia. A project that is showing that standing forest can produce an income for a country. A concept more radical than you might at first appreciate.

The reserve above incorporates 11 off-the-grid villages which are now solar-powered, are supplied by clean water and are able to produce their own incomes via a series of community farming initiatives. The villages are also involved in schooling scholarship initiatives for boosting local education levels and producing a model that is not only sustainable but is also progressive and doesn’t lock the people involved into a life away from opportunity and progress. Outside of that, the main purpose of this reserve is to provide a buffer between the ever encroaching palm plantations and the virgin forest.

The webcast explained the problem of palm plantation creep very well.  Standing natural capital has next to no value in our current economic model.  If you are interested in the economics of what this means I do recommend the book “Six Capitals, Can Accountants Save the Planet” by Jane Gleeson-White.  Todd Lemons, the Chairman of the Veridium Foundation and Rimba Raya, mentions this frequently during the talk and really hammers home the need for a change to the way we value our natural resources.   Todd also makes it quite clear that projects like this HAVE to pay their way and that means they need to bring in as much revenue to the government as a palm plantation would.  That really is the bottom line.

It’s really good to have a concrete example of what needs to be done on the ground to save our forests. However, what is blatantly obvious is that there is no way this can be sustained if we, the public continue to consume more and more resources, either through our greed or through our increasing success with breeding (population growth). Todd also reminds us that demand for palm oil is still growing at around 8% per year. Sadly he also offered up an opinion of the RSPO’s efforts to protect the forest, it wasn’t very favourable.

Rimba Raya is looking good and at 65,000 hectares, just under the size of the whole of Singapore, it’s also doing a lot of good to offset the carbon emissions of companies, like those in Croda’s stable, all over the world. However, we’d be really kidding ourselves if we were to sit back now and feel that we’ve done enough.  We’ve not even scratched the surface…


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