Deeper insights pave the way for accelerating the fight against deforestation
Earthworm Foundation calls for cross-sector collaboration to harness this data and find scalable solutions to eliminate deforestation.
Nyon, Switzerland – Over 350 private sector commitments to eliminate deforestation from supply chains by 2020 currently exist. Knowing exactly where deforestation is happening, and what is driving it, are key to finding solutions. Today, companies like Nestlé are able to access unprecedented information on deforestation through the Starling satellite monitoring service, a collaboration between Earthworm Foundation and Airbus, that allows them to monitor their supply chain on a regular basis, and take the necessary actions to address the issues observed. This monitoring is now live for all palm oil producing regions worldwide and for 100% of Nestlé’s palm oil supply chain.
To reap the benefits of these insights, Earthworm Foundation is calling upon more and greater collaborative company action.
Importantly, results provided by Starling show a shift in deforestation dynamics. While large deforestation events, indicative of large agricultural expansion are still visible, it is rather massive levels of smaller scale deforestation events between one to five hectares that are eroding the integrity of critical forest areas.
The biodiversity rich region of Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, is one area where the data gathered by Starling has allowed to see this growing trend and to develop a relevant strategy by bringing together a wide variety of stakeholders, importantly the local government. The region is undergoing rapid development, placing vital conservation areas, such as the Leuser Ecosystem, at risk. Traditionally, forest loss in Aceh has been driven by plantations, but Starling has revealed that is no longer the case.
“As a recent example, over the first three months of 2019 the region of Aceh experienced over 2,000 deforestation events that represented the loss of over 5,300 hectares of deforestation,” explained Patrick Houdry, Head of Agriculture and Forest Solutions at Airbus. “Nearly 75 percent of the deforestation occurred in events that were less than five hectares.”
“While plantation-led deforestation is still occurring, it is doing so at rates lower than forest loss linked to smaller sporadic events. said Rob McWilliam, Director of Technical Services at Earthworm Foundation. “It is likely that these small scale events of deforestation are related to farmers who are looking to provide for themselves. What we need are solutions that enable them to do that, while also conserving key forest areas. Striking this balance is key.”
By monitoring the area and capturing vast amounts of forest change data, Starling has provided a base from which to develop the landscape-level solutions that are necessary to find this balance.
“The data allowed stakeholders such as local governments, businesses, palm oil mills, NGOs and farmers in Aceh Tamiang to be brought together,” McWilliam continued. “What is important is that the information gained through Starling is followed up with boots-on-the-ground action. Simply knowing there is a problem is not enough.”
Since launching in 2015, Starling has monitored supply chains across the world: from cocoa in Ghana, to palm oil in Indonesia and pulp and paper in Russia. It has equipped companies like Nestlé with critical information to guide their purchasing decisions, and key insights to engage suppliers and partner to eliminate deforestation.
“We are supportive of the action that Nestlé is taking to address deforestation and congratulate them on the progress to date,” said Bastien Sachet, Earthworm Foundation’s CEO. “But one single company cannot solve deforestation on its own: we need more companies acting on accurate deforestation information, working together with each other and key stakeholders in the supply chains to maximise the impact we can have on conserving our precious tropical forests”.
Collaborating to address the shift in deforestation dynamics highlighted by Starling’s data is also essential. Principally, smallholders need urgent support.
“We also call for wider collaboration to work with smallholder farmers” Sachet continued. “Productive and prosperous farmers are allies to the forest. They are a key pillar of producing the significant increase in food needed to feed the world’s population, and we can act now to ensure that forests aren’t destroyed in the process.”
About Earthworm Foundation
Earthworm Foundation is a non-profit organisation driven by the desire to positively impact the relationship between people and nature. With most of our staff operating directly on the ground where the issues are, we work with our members and partners to make value chains an engine to drive positive economic, environmental and social impact.