Industrial oil palm plantations are rapidly expanding, not only in Liberia. In many African countries expansion projects are happening and plans are announced. Everywhere they go, the companies promise jobs and development. Produced by the World Rainforest Movement. Interviews; Winnie Overbeek Edition; Flavio Pazos September 2013 Also available in Spanish: Palma en África. Voces desde las comunidades
Original version by Ricardo Carrere - updated by the WRM in 2013. Oil palm is a traditional native crop for West and Central African communities, who are used to either plant them on their lands or to collect fruits, leaves or sap from native palms to use them in their daily lives: from locally processing palm oil to be used in the household or sold in the local markets to producing palm wine. Oil palm is part of their culture.
Oil palm and rubber plantations are very similar in many respects, but there is something that clearly differentiates them: oil palm is a native species in many West African countries –and part of the culture of local peoples- while rubber is clearly an alien species brought in by the Colonial powers. Oil palm and rubber plantations in Western and Central Africa: An Overview
Gambia used to be covered by very dense forests. However, the country has undergone a severe deforestation and degradation process. In 1981, about 430,000 hectares were classified as forests --45% of the total land area. Seven years later, the forest area was reduced to about 340,000 hectares. Gambian forests have also undergone a degradation process that implied the conversion of many closed forests into a poor quality tree and shrub savannah category, according to the national forest inventory of 1998.
As in many other countries, Gambia's forests are facing a type of forest degradation which implies the substitution of native species by an exotic. But this is not the common situation where plantation companies substitute native forests by eucalyptus, pines or palm oil plantations. In this case, the villain is a "good" tree, brought into the country by Indian immigrants: the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). In India, this tree has a number of positive features, among which the production of a useful natural pesticide. In Gambia, it is becoming a pest.