Landing at Honduras’ San Pedro Sula International Airport treats the passenger to a vista of nearly endless plantations of densely planted palm trees. Specifically these palms are elaeis guineensis - the most common variety of palm grown for its oil, and a booming cash crop, not only here, but especially in Southeast Asia.
TriplePundit readers are acutely aware that the growth in palm oil plantations is among the most serious causes of deforestation in tropical regions, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia where Phil Covington recently looked into the problem.
Honduras is a minor, but growing player in the palm oil scene. Fortunately, most of Honduras’ new palm oil plantations are replacing other crops, especially bananas, rather than virgin forest. Nonetheless, the rapid growth in this crop – used as an ingredient in everything from soap to margarine to biodiesel – presents numerous social and environmental challenges. Among these are worker safety, pesticide use, agricultural waste, economic development and indeed pressure to expand into high value natural areas.
I’ve just returned from a brief trip to Honduras to visit the first Rainforest Alliance certified palm oil cooperative -Hondupalma. I’ll be getting into the details of how Hondupalma works (it’s an interesting co-op of over 500 families) over the course of the next week or two. But first, I thought a brief introduction to the actual process of producing palm oil would be interesting.
I shot some video while I was there. Take a look after the jump…
Note: Travel to Honduras was provided by Rainforest Alliance.