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Home » Africa, BioRefineries, Business News/Analysis, Farming/Growing, Field Crops, International, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Policy, Sustainability, Tanzania, UK (United Kingdom), Zambia

Biofuels Boom in Africa as British Firms Lead Rush on Land for Plantations

Submitted by on June 1, 2011 – 12:01 pmNo Comment

by Damian Carrington and Stefano Valentino (The Guardian)  British firms have acquired more land in Africa for controversial biofuel plantations than companies from any other country, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

Half of the 3.2m hectares (ha) of biofuel land identified – in countries from Mozambique to Senegal – is linked to 11 British companies…

There are no central records of land acquisitions in Africa, but research by the Guardian revealed the scale of the biofuels rush in sub-Saharan Africa – 100 projects and 50 companies in more than 20 countries.

Crest Global Green Energy has the largest recorded landholding, 900,000ha in Mali, Guinea and Senegal. Tom Stuart, the chief executive, said: “It is true in some cases [that biofuels displace food], but in our projects we ‘inter-crop’, planting as much food as biofuel on the marginal land we have brought into agricultural use. There is a large social element to our projects, with all the local people needing to be in agreement, and that’s normally written into contracts at government level.”

…Jamidu Katima, at the University of Dar es Salaam, is critical of biofuels guidelines adopted by Tanzania’s government in 2010. “There are no plans to build refineries, nor obligations for foreign investors to reserve part of their output for the domestic market,” he said.

…Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat junior transport minister, said: “I consider the sustainability of biofuels to be paramount. No biofuel will count towards our targets unless it meets certain sustainability requirements. But we are pushing [Europe] to go further, to reduce the risk of knock-on effects, including deforestation in new areas.”

…Some projects provide local benefits through investment, employment and local use of the produce, but many do not, says Lorenzo Cotula at the International Institute for Environment and Development, who recently analysed 12 contracts from African land deals. “Some of the contracts we analysed only contain vague and unenforceable promises.” Some have 100-year leases, at very low or free rent and priority access to water, he added. “Extensive commercial plantations dislocate rural communities from their land”, said Cotula. “Instead, self-managed biofuels production can offer cheaper energy and complementary sources of income”. READ MORE and MORE (Policy Mic)

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