Climate, soil and land-use based land suitability evaluation for oilpalm production in Ghana
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tIn the past decade, oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) has become the world’s most important oil crop.The large demand for palm oil has resulted in a rapid expansion of oil palm cultivation across the globe.Because of the dwindling availability of land in Southeast Asia, most expansion of the industry is expectedin Central and South America and sub-Saharan Africa, where land with suitable agro-ecological condi-tions is available. Using Ghana as a case study, a method for evaluating areas that are both suitable andavailable for oil palm production is presented. Our assessment used spatial data and GIS techniques, andshowed that areas with suitable climatic conditions (annual average water deficit <400 mm) is about 20%greater than was previously identified. The observed differences are the result of using different meth-ods to determine suitability, and climate change. A major climatic factor limiting suitability for oil palmproduction in Ghana is the annual water deficit, with the most suitable areas located in the rainforest andsemi-deciduous forest zones with higher rainfall in southern Ghana. Opportunities for large-scale oil palmplantation development is limited, however, because of the lack of availability of large and contiguoustracts of land that are required for commercial plantation oil palm development. A feasible strategy foroil palm expansion is therefore smallholder production, which can make use of smaller parcels of land.Alternatively, oil palm production in Ghana can be increased by yield intensification on land alreadyplanted to oil palm. This can also reduce the requirement for further land clearance for new plantationsto meet the growing demand for palm oil. Such assessments will be essential for guiding governmentpolicy makers and investors considering investments in oil palm development.