The oil palm industry has many positive benefits, particularly as a key source of livelihoods for rural dwellers, but it also has negative impacts on the society and environment. For instance, poorly planned oil palm cultivation can increase the rate of natural forest loss, and contribute to unfair labour conditions on plantations and processing mills. It is therefore important for sustainable oil palm project initiators to understand the environmental and social effects of the industry, to be able to design appropriate interventions. Using a survey method, questionnaires were administered to different stakeholders in selected oil palm plantations and processing mills to generate both qualitative and quantitative data for assessing the social and environmental impacts of the industry. The environmental and social impact assessment was done within the framework and guidelines of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The assessment also applied a holistic approach by diagnosing the direct, indirect and sector-wide cumulative impacts. It was found that, in most cases, the social and environmental indicators assessed from the respondents do not comply with the guidelines of national legislation and the Ghana interpretation of the RSPO principles. It is prudent for sustainable oil palm projects to provide opportunities for plantation and mills owners and workers to acquire, and share knowledge on the effects of their activities on the society and environment. Project interventions must be formulated to mitigate negative impacts of the activities of production and processing to ensure sustainability of the oil palm industry.
Key words: Environmental, oil palm, mitigation measures, sustainable palm oil, plantations.
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