Bridging science gaps to Indigenous farmers

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26 October 2015
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Having just returned from Kuala Lumpur where a haze embraced the city during the entire visit, the importance of reducing environmental impact was subsequently reinforced upon reading a feature in this week’s  Nature (27 October: VOL. 526, p.477)  related to oil-palm production in South East Asia.

Oil-palm production in the region is never far from international media headlines when it comes to environmental impact and with the haze being particularly bad and chronic just now it is inevitably back in the lime-light!

The cause of the haze is the traditional technique of ‘slash and burn’ with massive seasonal fires to clear old, unproductive oil-palm plantations for new plantings with most of the blame placed upon the big commercial companies.

However the feature in Nature challenges this easily apportioned assumption and explains that most of these fires are actually outside the official plantations with Indigenous small-holder farmers being mostly to blame.

However it needs to be remembered that, amongst other things, small-holder farmers do not have access to the results of high quality research generated by the ‘triple helix’ of organised collaboration between commercial plantation companies, academic institutions and government policy-makers which would enable them to increase their oil-palm yields more sustainably with reduced environmental impact.

The key to achieving this is through out-reach efforts aimed at bridging the ‘science gap’ which exists between Indigenous small-holder farmers and members of this ‘triple helix’ club.

” There are a number of initiatives underway to bridge ‘science gaps’ with Indigenous small-holder farmers and create a more inclusive ‘quadruple helix’ in oil-palm production which should be vigorously copied and expanded” says Dr Kevin Moran of Kemnovation.

He continues, “There will be a perfect opportunity to develop this relationship at the upcoming meeting in Paris next month to develop a treaty on climate change and help create a path to sustainable agricultural practices which encompass Indigenous small-holders who actually produce the largest proportion of all crops grown in South East Asia.”

“Furthermore it is a founding principle of Kemnovation to facilitate the communication and sharing of sound scientific knowledge to increase sustainable agricultural production for a growing planet.”

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