This chapter examines the decision to cultivate oil palm under the different conditions that independent smallholders experience in the East Malaysian oil palm frontier. It provides a different context in which oil palm is produced, a setting grappling with additional insecurities associated with forced resettlement. In humid tropical countries oil palm is seen as the most profitable form of rural land use. As such, it has come to dominate the economies of several Southeast Asian countries, notably Indonesia and Malaysia. In East Malaysia most of the independent smallholders are indigenous peoples who tend to grow oil palm on lands claimed under customary right. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formally established in 2004 in response to concerns about the environmental risks posed by the rapidly growing demand for palm oil. Despite formal training and the informal presence of learning networks amongst related smallholders that have facilitated independent farm developments, smallholders struggle to fully meet the RSPO principles.
Majid Cooke, F., Hezri, A. A., Azmi, R., Morent Mukit, R., Jensen, P. D., & Deutz, P. (2017). Oil palm cultivation as a development vehicle: Exploring the trade-offs for smallholders in East Malaysia. In A. McGregor, L. Law, & F. Miller (Eds.), Routledge handbook of Southeast Asian development (330-341). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315726106-29