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Satellites to help safeguard sustainability of palm oil, with launch of UK and Mexico project

The long-term sustainability of Mexican palm oil production has been given a major boost with the announcement that FEMEXPALMA, the association of Mexican palm oil producers, will use satellites to monitor and safeguard sustainable land use practices, including the protection of forests and biodiversity.

Global palm oil production reached record heights in 2020, but concerns remain over its environmental, economic and social impact. As part of its commitment to promote effective climate action, the UK finances and supports local projects with global impact.

The move by FEMEXPALMA follows the UK Space Agency’s internationally renowned Forests 2020 project, run by Ecometrica, a leading environmental monitoring company, which has been working with Mexican institutions to improve their forest and agricultural monitoring, using satellites.

Harnessing insights from this project and mapping data from Mexico’s Federal research institution El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), the FEMEXPALMA monitoring system will be deployed on Ecometrica’s mapping platform and supported by in-country technicians at Frontierra.

José Luis Pérez Vázquez Aldana, Executive President of FEMEXPALMA, said: “We are firmly committed to developing a sustainable palm oil industry in Mexico, while protecting our forests and biodiversity. Working with key partners to create an effective monitoring system – underpinned by a world-leading technology platform – we believe we are in strong position to grow our industry, in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.”

Liz Cox, IPP Head of International Relations at UKSA, explained: “The move by FEMEXPALMA is a testament to the success of the Forests 2020 programme and the longer-term role of advanced earth observation in monitoring deforestation. From a commercial perspective, the initiative will help producers address the heightened focus of importers and consumers of products to the UK, to demonstrate that they have not been associated with deforestation.”

Sarah Middlemiss, space programme manager at Ecometrica, concluded: “Working with FEMEXPALMA strengthens our long-term commitment to working with partners in Mexico and across Latin America, paving the way for other palm oil growers to monitor their commitments to sustainable production. It complements our continued partnership with the National Forestry Commission in Mexico, CONAFOR, who uses the Ecometrica Platform to monitor change in national forest cover and the potential impact of national agricultural subsidies.”

Projects currently supported by the International Partnership Programme (IPP) covers a range of issues, including the development of climate and natural disaster resilience, improving agriculture, reducing deforestation, preventing and reducing maritime pollution and illegal fishing, optimising production of renewable energy and improving access to financial services that are adequate and affordable.

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