The conventional oil palm farming practices are dependent on high inputs of chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and inorganic fertilisers, and these practices have been taken as “standard operating procedure”; but what if there is another, and potentially better way of growing oil palm, that eliminates the use of chemicals yet can still encourage plant health and growth?
Wild Asia and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK-CEH) have been working on the ground since 2018 to understand the complexities and challenges of oil palm cultivation by small producers. Looking at how to reduce the dependency on expensive and high carbon emission inputs can reduce farm costs, and offer a low-carbon model for the planet.
Hosted by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), we will have two sessions: one starting at the farm, and the second, looking beyond the farm.
“Nature-based Solutions for the Planet” is a 2-part webinar for students, practitioners, professional planters and policy makers to learn about some of the latest work from research scientists exploring how enhancing biodiversity can benefit oil palm production.
You can watch all the videos here or click on the links after each talk below.
Session #1: Can Oil Palm Farms be Chemical-Free and Still Productive?
Date: 8 December 2020 (Tuesday)
Time: 10.00am – 11.00am (KL GMT+8)
For many smallholders, oil palm farms require significant investment on fertilisers and other chemicals in order to establish and sustain a profitable yield. Can natural alternative approaches such as encouraging natural soil biodiversity – also known as living soils, improve farm productivity while removing the need for chemicals and still be scaled up to plantation-sized production? This session explains how.
- Heng Mei Hsuan, UTAR Agriculture Park Committee, “Importance of Soil Organism.” Watch.
- John Howes, Technical Director and Christine Fletcher, Technical Associate, Wild Asia, “WAGS BIO Farms as a Transitional Strategy for Oil Palm: A case study of bio-interventions and the results from our demonstration plots in Perak, Malaysia.” Watch.
- Vijiandran Suva Rajah, Senior Research Manager, United Plantations, “Sustainable Soil and Nutrient Management in Oil Palm Plantations.” Watch.
Listen to the Questions & Answers session here.
Session #2: How does sustainable farm management contribute to a better global climate impact?
Date: 8 December 2020 (Tuesday)
Time: 4.00pm – 5.30pm (KL GMT+8)
Oil palm in Malaysia is cultivated on a very broad scale, from smallholders with 1-hectare plots to estates covering thousands of hectares. This session explores innovative approaches in farm management to achieve more sustainable practices to create a better ecosystem and how oil palm producers can play a significant role in mitigating climate change.
- Rebecca Rowe, Terrestrial Ecologist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), “Could enhancing soil organic carbon be the next wave of nature-based solutions? A UK-perspective.” Watch.
- Dafydd Elias, Soil Ecologist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), “Variability in smallholder oil palm plantations and management options for climate change mitigation.” Watch.
- Reza Azmi, Executive Director & Founder, Wild Asia, “Future-proofing commodities, naturally. Lessons from oil palm small producers.” Watch.
Listen to the Questions & Answers session here.
About the Speakers
Ms Heng Mei Hsuan is a Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural and Food Science, Faculty of Science, UTAR. Her research areas include Soil Science and Plant Pathology, and she supervises students in projects relating to soil fertility. She holds a Master of Science in Microbiology and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons) in Agrobiology from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). She is currently undergoing her PhD in Plant Pathology at USM.
Mr John Howes is an ecologist who has lived and worked throughout Asia since 1984. He has been involved in projects focusing on biodiversity assessments in plantation and natural ecosystems for RSPO accreditation programmes; HCV assessments; environmental education programmes; and, development of conservation programmes for plantation companies. John has experience of conservation project planning and implementation in most Asian countries, with extensive experience in wetland ecology through his various role(s) as scientific officer, training programme coordinator, communications officer and senior technical officer with Wetlands International.
Dr Christine Fletcher is a zoologist with more than 18 years of experience conducting research in wildlife ecology and forestry. She has headed both local and international-funded projects, which looked into improving biodiversity conservation and monitoring in forest management practices in Malaysia as well as participated in climate change negotiations and technical discussions as part of the Malaysian delegation.
Dr Rebecca Rowe is a research scientist with 14 yrs. experience working in sustainable land use. Her research focuses on the impacts of bioenergy crops on ecosystem services and especially soil carbon stocks. More recently she has also started working on developing sustainable solutions for small holder pine-coffee agroforestry in Indonesia. She is based at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and has in the past also worked at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh. She has relationships with both policy makers and industry and her core interest is in exploring ways to balance ecosystem service delivery with the land use needs of different stakeholders.
Mr Dafydd Elias is a soil biogeochemist based at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), Lancaster with 9 years’ experience of conducting research into the effects of land use and climate change on plant – soil biogeochemistry. His past research has focused on understanding the impacts of tropical land management intensity on plant-soil interactions in SE Asia and investigating the efficacy of biochar for the remediation of degraded tropical soils. His current research examines the mechanisms underpinning soil carbon persistence in agricultural soils. He is currently working with Wild Asia to understand variability in palm and soil health across Malaysian smallholder oil palm systems and investigate options for enhancing sustainability.
Dr Reza Azmi is the founder and Executive Director of Wild Asia. He has over 10 years experience in botanical research (floristics, taxonomy and ethnobotany), and in issues relating to biodiversity conservation (protected areas, sustainability standards and trade). An individual member of RSPO since 2006, Reza was amongst the early external experts involved in assessing Malaysian plantations against the RSPO Principles & Criteria. Since 2007, Reza has been developing initiatives to directly help the oil palm industry understand and implement sustainable practices.
About Wild Asia
Wild Asia is an impact-driven organisation committed to push for sustainable land management. We support a number of strategic initiatives to improve land management by small and large producers. Our Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS) delivers a low-cost model for sustainability certification and technical support for independent agri-producers. WAGS BIO Farms, is a pilot initiative, to explore how improving our soils naturally can lead to better farm profits for oil palm producers.
UK-CEH is the UK’s Centre of Excellence for integrated research in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. They have established a working agreement with Wild Asia to understand the impacts of land management and biodiversity. They provided the science-based monitoring support for a pilot group of farms in Perak (2018-2019) where we have established the baseline data of soil, leaf and plant health.
About The Faculty of Science and Centre for Biodiversity Research (CBR)
Faculty of Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysia is a collaborative research community which is integrating cross-disciplinary researches that are required to solve global food insecurity and agriculture on a trajectory toward sustainability and promoting healthy lives and well-being at all ages to sustainable development. Meanwhile, the Centre for Biodiversity Research (CBR) is one of the research centres in UTAR. Both faculty and centre intend to serve as a catalyst for education, training and commerce in the related areas at all levels. Our goals are to initiate National recognition on research activities that promote agriculture and food sustainability, health and natural resources, and to promote multidisciplinary research, product development and training of personnel in priority areas to drive local industries towards sustainable utilization.