Is macauba a rainforest-friendly alternative to palm oil?

The destruction of the rainforests is widely recognised as one of the single biggest threats to human civilsation, with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) declaring, “there’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation.” One of the biggest, although certainly not the only, reasons for the decimation of these precious forests, has been to allow for the planting of oil palms for the production of palm oil. In response to this, many of the world’s governments, environmentalists, and eco-minded manufactures have been searching for a rainforest-friendly alternative to palm oil, in an effort to stem the tide of devastation, and they may have discovered a viable alternative, macauba oil.

“there’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation”

What is macauba oil and why is it a rainforest-saving option?

Macauba is a species of oil palm native to Brazil. As with other vegetable oils, it can be used as an ingredient in cooking and in the production of products such as packaging.

With a yield of approximately 2.5 metric tons of vegetable oil per hectare per year, the macauba plant is comparable to that of conventional oil palms in its productivity, but it requires less water and is more resistant to drought. This means macauba palms can be cultivated for oil production in less fertile soils and on degraded pastureland in the drier regions of Brazil, eliminating the need to clear rainforest for its production.

Growing these palms as crops also unlocks potential, with regards to sustainability and biodiversity. For example, when incorporated into integrated agroforestry systems, macauba can make an important ecological contribution to the soil. The root systems loosen degraded soils, help to prevent erosion, store water over long periods of time and create habitats for many small animals, insects and organisms, which live underground or in the soil. Farming these palms also helps to store carbon as their roots and trunks capture and store about 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.