Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL)


Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes

The expansion of palm oil provides significant income for producer countries, corporations and smallholders, but at a significant social and environmental cost within and beyond the landscapes in which palm oil is grown.

Stakeholders and decision-makers need to devise and adopt ‘green’ development approaches that better balance development and conservation. To help chart a path towards a more sustainable and inclusive future, they need to better understand the social, economic and ecological processes that shape environmental outcomes and the impacts these outcomes have on society.

The Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL), an ETH Zurich-led project with the Luc Hoffmann Institute as partner, investigates global and local priorities in selected palm oil landscapes – in Central Sumatra and East Kalimantan in Indonesia, Southwest Cameroon, and Orinoco (Llanos Orientales) and Caribbean region in Colombia.

The overall aim is to improve the management of oil palm landscapes across Asia, Africa and Latin America through:

  • Understanding the socio-political, economic and ecological drivers shaping landscape transformation associated with palm oil development under different management systems and their environmental and livelihood outcomes.
  • Developing models of palm oil landscapes that merge social and economic perspectives using ‘participatory group modelling’, and building future scenarios that cover different management and policy options.
  • Linking science to practice by embedding research in policy dialogues and decision making processes.

The project has created a large consortium of partners. These range from ETH Zurich, to local universities such as Bogor University, Javeriana University, and practitioners such as CIFOR, CIRAD, WWF Colombia, WWF Cameroon and LHI working jointly on the project.

Each group of partners at the local level are convening relevant stakeholders. In Colombia, Javeriana University, NES Naturaleza and WWF Colombia convened a group of 14 key stakeholders from 11 public and private institutions to begin the process of developing the PARDI model relating to oil palm plantations in the Llanos (Orinoco Basin) region.

In Cameroon, the modelling work has been used to understand the constraints and drivers that shape palm oil transformation inefficiencies. Based on information from experts, OPAL developed a palm oil supply chain role playing game (CoPalCam). This was tested with experts and then validated with local producers. It was also used to engage the inter-ministerial committee regulating the palm oil sector as well as experts from UNEXPALM during a workshop in April 2016.


Project partners

Project leaders

Jaboury Ghazoul, Claude Garcia and Paolo Burlando (ETHZ), Pablo Pacheco (CIFOR), Ludovic Miiaro (WWF-CARPO), Sofia Ricon (WWF-Colombia), Irwan Gunawan and Putra Agung (WWF Indonesia), Malika Virah-Sawmy (Luc Hoffmann Institute).

Related reading

Chris JohnsonOil Palm Adaptive Landscapes