Last year, an important paper on the subject was published in Conservation Letters by Janice Lee and colleagues that looked at just this question. Using data from Sumatra covering the period 2000-2010, they found that smallholders were responsible for just 11% of the deforestation, even though their farms covered about 40% of the land in oil palm. Large private enterprises, on the other hand, caused 88% of the deforestation. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the figures were almost identical: 9% and 90%. So it’s overwhelmingly the big companies that are destroying forest to create oil palm plantations and causing dangerous climate change. From: blog.ucsusa.org
GR: Having grown up on a farm, and currently owing two farms, I doubt the “little guys” are all that conservation minded; they just lack the resources to really get out there and clear that land like large companies. This is pretty much the same everywhere. Corporate farming, just like many other corporate enterprises, takes place on huge scales as it focuses on profits first and conservation second. Thus, small farming is preferable, not because small farmers are conservationists, but because small farmers just can’t tear up that much.