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If you buy palm sugar from Red Ape, you contribute to the conservation of tropical rainforests in Indonesia. And that is badly needed, because the future of the jungle looks anything but rosy. According to The Guardian Indonesia has the dubious honour of surpassing Brazil to be the country with the highest rate of deforestation (while the Indonesian forest is only a quarter of the size of the Amazon!). According to Greenpeace, between 1990 and 2013 Indonesia lost a quarter of its tropical rainforest; 31 million hectares of forest have been destroyed in 23 years, an area the size of Germany. Another 45 million hectares of tropical rainforest are in danger of being slashed or burned. What remains is arid and barren land. Land where once thousands of species of animals and plants lived. Such as the person (orang) of the forest (utan), our Red Ape.

The lungs of the Earth

The tropical rainforest is also called "the lungs of Mother Earth." The often thousand-years old trees absorb CO2 from the air and produce oxygen. They are vital to our life on earth. But there is danger from coming from different sides:
  • The palm oil industry is rapidly burning the remaining original forest to create palm oil plantations. Oil palms tolerate no other trees and plants in their neighbourhood. By intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, the palm oil industry also causes pollution of the groundwater, rivers and oceans. Also, nearby peat land is drained for the construction of oil palm plantations; this drained peat land emits a lot of CO2.
  • The paper industry cuts more than half a million hectares of forest to produce plantations for paper (pulp) each year. Paper that often ends up in European bookstores via China's printing presses! The palm oil and paper industries like to present themselves to the government as the “good guys” that will “green” the destroyed land again… with their monocultures.
  • Corruption impedes the enforcing of the strict environmental laws in Indonesia. Violators, from companies to small illegal poachers, are not or hardly punished.
  • Farmers in Kalimantan (Borneo) typically burn some acres to use the fertile ashes for their rice fields. This burning of private farmland occurs every 10-25 years, because the local population has no other way of farming. Unfortunately often accidents happen when there is severe drought: fires spread uncontrollably.

The result is an annual ritual of many months of conflagrations and smog, which harms the health of many people, nature and the economy. The emissions from the fires in Indonesia are estimated to have reached the equivalent of 10% of global CO2 emissions!

But there is hope:

The advantages of the Arenga sugar palm

Thirty-five years ago, a young Wageningen University researcher named Willie Smits. The later founder of the Masarang foundation realised immediately that this palm is very special: unlike the oil palm, this sugar palm grows almost anywhere, even on poor soils and steep slopes. But most importantly, he saw that this Arenga sugar palm grew best between other trees in the forest, avoiding the need to cut down any of its neighbouring species. In short, Willie saw the Arenga palm as a source of income for the population, while saving the forest at the same time. In fact, he figured out how to restore rainforests through an agro-forestry system, spearheaded by the Arenga palm.

Home for the orangutan

Thanks to the income from the sugar, farmers are no longer tempted to sell their land to oil palm or paper-pulp companies. They are committed to protect the forests. Slowly but surely more birds, reptiles and large animals like the tiger will return to the forest. Our orang-utan will regain its habitat!