If you read ingredient labels, you’ll see palm and palm kernel oil everywhere: in bread, chocolate, frozen pizza – even soap, toothpaste and cosmetics. No wonder the oil palm tree, whose fruit and seeds are used to produce these oils, is in tremendous demand as a crop in West and Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
But while the trees are considered a highly productive source of vegetable oil, farming them can carry a heavy environmental impact. As large farms clear land to make room for oil palms, deforestation and forest fires can occur, threatening biodiversity.
Liberian entrepreneur Mahmud Johnson has come up with a possible solution. He is installing milling machines in rural communities to help small local growers increase their yields on wild-growing trees, allowing them to produce the oil more sustainably and to generate enough earnings to stay independent.