Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Oil palm cultivation as a development vehicle: Exploring the trade-offs for smallholders in East Malaysia

Ward, Alastair; Majid Cooke, Fadzilah; Hezri, Adnan A.; Azmi, Reza; Morent Mukit, Ryan; Jensen, Paul D.; Deutz, Pauline


Profile Image

Dr Alastair Ward
Head of Department, Biological and Marine Sciences

Fadzilah Majid Cooke

Adnan A. Hezri

Reza Azmi

Ryan Morent Mukit

Paul D. Jensen


Andrew McGregor

Lisa Law

Fiona Miller


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.

Online Publication Date Nov 6, 2017
Publication Date Nov 23, 2017
Deposit Date May 28, 2019
Publisher Routledge
Pages 330-341
Book Title Routledge handbook of Southeast Asian development
Chapter Number 26
ISBN 9781317535980; 9781138848535
Public URL
Publisher URL