“It was a great opportunity for Olam to have people from all over the world to physically experience the palm development model proposed by the company,” said Quentin Meunier
, Head of Environment and Sustainable Development in Gabon for Olam. “Traveling through planted and protected areas was a key component in understanding our landscape conservation approach.”
After washing off the dust and dirt, the diverse group gathered around a table to discuss what they had seen. Their conversations touched on the challenges of achieving sustainable development in a country that has uniquely high forest cover and a strong need for economic development for a growing population.
“The concept of zero deforestation is a challenge for Gabon: how to preserve forest ecosystems and biodiversity, while developing at the agricultural level to feed its population and reduce the import bill for a country with a forest cover of 88 percent,” said Patrick Mounguengui
, from the Ministry of Agriculture in Gabon.
Discussions at the end of the event focused on potential solutions to address these challenges. Edwige Eyang Effa
, from the group Women for Environment, Health and Education in Gabon, voiced the need for compromise within these solutions. “We cannot make the protection of our forests a tool of inequalities that will make the communities living there more vulnerable,” she said.
Participants proposed practical action points that they could take on themselves, either within their own organizations or in collaboration with individuals that they met during the meeting. “Many stakeholders from Central Africa perceived ‘deforestation-free’ as a notion imposed from far away,” said Rod Taylor
of the World Resources Institute. “The Dialogue identified a critical need for follow-up actions to support local stakeholders to articulate their vision for development and how this can leverage global momentum towards responsible supply chains.”
While the participants dispersed after five days the discussion is far from over. As individuals return to their respective cities, countries, and workplaces, there is much anticipation amongst the participants, who plan to follow up on the many good ideas with action.
The direct outputs from the Dialogue are the background paper and the co-chair summary that will be released in the coming weeks. It will be available at the TFD website