This post supplements the feature “Fuel vs. Food: Agrofuels and Africa“.

Some of the impacts that already have been observed in 2007 include:

Displacement of farmers and food security in Tanzania

Thousands of Tanzanian farmers growing rice and maize are being evicted from fertile and water sourced areas of land for Jatropha plantations on newly privatised land. Villages are being cleared with families being given minimal compensation for their loss. Evictions have taken place in Kisarawe district and the Usangu plains, and tens of thousands of hectares in Bagamoyo and Kilwa districts are being given to foreign investors.

Deforestation for agrofuels in Uganda

In Uganda, plans to cut down thousands of hectares of the country’s largest rainforest reserve, for a sugar plantation for ethanol, have fortunately been cancelled following civil protest. Such deforestation can threaten local water cycles: – Mabira Forest is a key water catchment area for Lake Victoria and the River Nile. Unfortunately, thousands of hectares of forest on Kalangala and Bugala Islands in Lake Victoria have already been cut down to make way for palm oil plantations.

A bad deal for out-growers in Zambia

Privatised plantations are not the only model of large-scale agrofuel production in Africa. Investors in Zambia are choosing to grow Jatropha through huge numbers of out-growers, using contracts that last up to 30 years. These contracts serve to transfer control over production from the farmer to the company, through a system of loans, numerous extra charges, service payments and prices determined by the company. Under such a system of dependence, farmers increase their debt to the company, often leading to a hand over their land.

Conservation areas threatened in Ethiopia

Millions of hectares in Ethiopia have been identified as suitable for agrofuel production with foreign investors being allocated land from farms, forests and wilderness areas. Even protected areas are not safe from the spread of agrofuels. One European investor has been granted 13,000 hectares of land in Oromia state – 87% of which is the Babile Elephant Sanctuary; home to rare and endangered elephants.

Debate over fuel or food in West Africa

In West Africa, the agrofuel craze is gaining momentum. Jatropha is already being grown in Togo, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade has enthused about an African “biofuels revolution” and placed fuel crops at the heart of an agriculture renewal programme. Ghana is planning to plant one million hectares of Jatropha with support of the government, while in Benin, permission has been gained to plant a quarter of a million hectares of agrofuel crops. Farmers in Benin and in many other countries in the region have, on average, 1 hectare to grow their products. Agrofuels will seriously dent their food production capabilities.

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