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Durban’s Mission: Food Security First

World Growth
November 28, 2011

Former President of the Republic of Ghana Writes How Palm Oil is Critical to Africa’s Food Security

Raises Concerns About Efforts to Stop Palm Oil Development in Africa

Durban, South Africa – On the opening day of the United Nations climate talks in Durban, the pro-development NGO World Growth released a new report urging world leaders to focus on the importance of food security, particularly in Africa, and the critical role of palm oil as an effective strategy to reduce food insecurity. Palm oil as part of the solution is under threat by environmental NGOs, some leading industrialized economies, as well as the World Bank, who seek to halt the conversion of forest land to palm oil and to install sustainability standards that will curtail expansion of palm oil plantations in Africa.

The new report by World Growth features a foreword by President J. A. Kufuor, Former President of the Republic of Ghana. President Kufuor writes about the importance for addressing long-standing hunger and food insecurity challenges that have plagued Africa and how the South East Asian experience with palm oil can provide the path forward for Africa:

“Poverty alleviation in Africa continues to lag the rest of the world. The rural poor are a large proportion of the food insecure – half of Africa’s food insecure people are smallholders. The problems facing Africans in accessing food supplies are clear. Agricultural productivity is low. Post-harvest losses are high, as are the costs of internal transport and distribution. As a consequence, smallholders are unable to produce enough either to feed their families or to lift them out of poverty. In South-East Asia, commercial palm oil plantations have been highly successful at reducing rural poverty levels, fostering employment for small holders, developing rural infrastructure, and providing a source of inexpensive, staple food for the population as a whole."

World Growth Chairman and former Ambassador to the GATT (the predecessor to the World Trade Organization) made the following observations:

“In Africa, several palm oil development projects are in the process of being implemented. If they proceed to fruition, these investments have the ability to increase the local supply of an important food staple, reduce the need for Africa to import substantial quantities of palm oil, provide the basis for a new export industry and, most importantly, boost job creation in a region historically beset by poverty.

“Yet this miracle is under threat from Western sustainability standards, championed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that will undermine efforts to strengthen food security amongst the very poor, such as smallholders. Efforts in Durban will also seek to instill new policies that enshrine a view that forest land conversion should be halted due to its large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Data points out this is inaccurate as the levels of emissions claimed by the World Bank and other leading economies is half of what they claim. These actions by Greens like WWF and the World Bank threaten Africa’s food security and should be resisted by developing nations during the negotiations.”

President J. A. Kufuor, Former President of the Republic of Ghana commented further in his foreword that:

“Concerted attempts are underway to restrict the type of land on which oil palm plantations may be developed, most prominently by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and environmental NGOs. For some time, environmental campaigners have been actively seeking to stop multilateral and private financial support to major palm oil developments in Africa, regardless of the net economic and social benefit that the local population can expect to receive from these developments. In the context of African food security, this campaigning is misguided and dangerous. Because food security is one of Africa’s prime challenges now and in the coming years, I am pleased that this paper re-focuses the debate away from environmentalism, towards the positive role that staple crops, such as palm oil, can play in African development. I endorse this paper for its uncompromising examination of the challenges and opportunities facing Africa’s poor and hungry, and I urge national leaders to consider its conclusions in the forthcoming climate change negotiations to be hosted in Durban. It is essential that, as these negotiations look towards agreement on environmental issues, we do not sacrifice the needs of Africa’s poor and hungry in the process.”

Click here to read the report, A Roadblock to Food Security; How Halting Land Conversion Threatens Food Security in Africa – A Palm Oil Case Study.

To speak with World Growth's experts or find out more about its work, please email or call +1-866-467-7200.

World Growth is an international non-governmental organization established to expand the research, information, advocacy, and other resources to improve the economic conditions and living standards in developing and transitional countries. At World Growth, we embrace the age of globalization and the power of free trade to eradicate poverty and create jobs and opportunities. World Growth supports the production of palm oil and the use of forestry as a means to promote economic growth, reduce poverty and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. World Growth believes a robust cultivation of palm oil and forestry provides an effective means of environmental stewardship that can serve as the catalyst for increasing social and economic development.

For more information on World Growth, visit


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