August 31, 2010 Leave a comment
Friends of the Earth, an international grassroot environmental network recently published a 36 page report that warns of the developed countries drive for biofuels. The report titled “Africa: up for grabs” says that arable land that would provide food is now being turned into biofuel plantations, leading to hunger and increased food insecurity.
The research covering 11 African countries found that at least 5 million hectares – an area the size of Denmark- has been acquired by foreign firms for biofuel production. However in some cases, local farmers and communities are not consulted nor adequately made aware of what selling or leasing their property means.
In July 2010, a draft report by the World Bank, reported in the Financial Times controversially told that investors were targeting countries with weak land governance structures; and failing to deliver on promises of employment and further investment. The final report is yet to be published.
Activists have also claimed that farmers are pushed off their land to live in poverty. Nevertheless the pressure for more land continues to grow with policies in the west such as the European Unions Renewable Energy Directive that calls for 10% of fuels to originate from renewable sources.
Though 80% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population depends on agriculture as a source of income, farmers not only have to contend with adverse weather conditions as a result of climate change, but others either do not get paid for their harvests or receive only a fraction of what they should earn. Little wonder then that with the prospect of cash for land, farmers continue to sell or lease out their property.
A solution to rampant “land grab” has been the imposition of a certification scheme. This like fair-trade would at least ensure that the agreements for sale or lease would be beneficial to the original owners. Domestic markets for biofuels could also be promoted so the farmers can also be beneficiaries.