We have family farmers to thank for healthy, versatile Malaysian sustainable palm oil. More than 300,000 farmers across Malaysia grow the robust trees on small, family plantations. Called smallholders, they account for nearly 40 percent of the country’s total oil palm-planted areas. Cultivating plantations no larger than 100 acres, they play an integral role in the industry’s success. Growing this nutritious oil has also made a difference in the lives of their families. Many farmers thank the cooking oil for keeping their families out of poverty

Malaysian oil palm plantations are an effective way to reduce poverty

Palm oil comes from the oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis. Each tree produces bunches of fruit throughout the year that must be handpicked. The family farmers work year-round in Malaysia’s hot and humid climate to care for the trees, pick the fruit and transport it for processing. Although not the largest player in the palm oil industry, they contribute to the more than 18 million tons of sustainable palm oil Malaysia exports each year.

The family farmers are represented by the National Association of Smallholders. The group’s president, Dato’ Haji Aliasak Haji Ambia, says palm plantations are one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty in Malaysia. Many of the family farmers have adopted an entrepreneurial spirit, raising livestock, and cultivating fruits and vegetables, amid their oil palms. This has contributed to new, creative and environmentally friendly agricultural practices that have raised the productivity of the farms and the standard of living throughout the country. Malaysian palm oil smallholders have an average monthly income of RM 1,356 (376 U.S. dollars), far above the Malaysian national poverty line of RM 529 (147 U.S. dollars). Amad Sidek, a smallholder in the Malaysian state of Selangor said, “If we were not allowed to plant oil palm, our lives would be very difficult.”

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Malaysian palm oil smallholders featured in London art exhibition

Acclaimed Malaysian photographer Amri Ginang, has created a mesmerizing collection of photographs that tells the story of these hardworking farmers, their families, and their small, oil palm plantations. London’s The Strand Gallery is hosting the inspiring exhibition of black and white photographs entitled, Faces: The Farmer’s Odyssey.

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