Frightening stories about palm oil production causing biodiversity loss, deforestation, violation of labour rights and social conflicts fill our daily news. These stories obscure those examples in which palm oil drives positive social and environmental change and improves the lives of farmers and their communities. These stories are as omnipresent as the negative ones but are seldom heard and told.
Since 2013, 32 groups of independent smallholders across Indonesia have started producing sustainable palm oil with the support of FORTASBI, Indonesia’s Sustainable Palm Farmers Forum. These farmers sold their palm oil via the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification scheme. Earnings were used to improve own agricultural practices but also to serve the local community. This way, farmer communities now benefit from cleaner rivers, reduced fire incidences, or better access to health services. Here we highlight some results of this work.