Addressing the interplay between agribusiness investments and ape conservation

Recent years have witnessed a new wave of large-scale acquisitions for agribusiness investments in Africa and Asia. Countries that house a large proportion of the world's biodiversity and ape habitats and populations have lost areas of high biodiversity land to commercial agriculture. Despite much effort at local, national and global levels, evidence on the exact scale, location and coverage of agribusiness investments remains patchy and often unreliable.

2014 – 2017
An orangutan swinging between trees

Palm oil plantations are destroying the habitat of orangutans in Borneo. Multinationals say they are committed to sustainable production but deforestation, road building and land clearing are continuing (Photo: Seb Ruiz via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Commercial agriculture is impacting ape habitats in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Cameroon, Uganda, Myanmar and Laos.

This three-year project explored and enhanced the evidence base on the interplay between agribusiness investments and effective ape conservation, and on the opportunities and constraints reflected in national and international law. It also developed a longer-term strategy for effective use of legal tools to protect apes and ape habitats.

Overall, findings highlighted an inherent tension between industrial agriculture and ape conservation because goals and beneficiaries differ significantly. Although legal rules and institutions mandated to apply them can provide a basis for managing this tension, the project revealed multiple issues in the design and implementation of national and international rules.

In-country research and policy engagement in Cameroon and Borneo identified ways to promote policy reform and mechanisms to promote effective compliance with, and enforcement of, national legislation and international standards in home and host states.

Additional resources

Legal frameworks at the interface between industrial agriculture and ape conservation, Lorenzo Cotula, Giedre Jokubauskaite, Philippine Sutz and Ian Singleton (2015), chapter in State of the Apes 2015: Industrial Agriculture and Ape Conservation, Cambridge University Press

Event video: Arcus Forum: Farming for the Future (2015)