Monday, October 18, 2010

Biofuels: An Open Road to Starvation and Enslavement

For the past few years, agrofuels have rapidly emerged as a major issue in agriculture sector.
Development, energy policy, and natural resource management. Growing demand for agrofuels is being driven by recent high oil prices, energy security concerns, and global climate change and the need to shift into clean utilization of our natural resources. In Tanzania, there has been a growing interest from foreign private investors in establishing agrofuels projects since 2000, Since then, now we are having more than 40 foreign companies in the country investing in the agrofuels differing in implementation modalities. Few companies for instance Diligent in Arusha promote ‘outgrowers’ by letting the community use their land to cultivate jatropha and they buy seed from them. Others compete and acquire like Sun Biofuel in Kisarawe and Bioshape in Kilwa Masoko to mention few, acquire big land and implement the project themselves.

Biofuels are broadly defined as liquid, solid or gaseous fuels that are predominantly or exclusively produced from biomass. The main types of biofuels include biodiesel, bioethanol, or purified biogas derived from crops, plant residues or wastes. Commonly the bioethanol is made from starch plants (e.g. maize, wheat and cassava) and sugar plants (e.g. sugar beet and sugar cane). Biodiesel can be made from palm oil, jatropha nut oil, coconut oil, soybean oil, and other vegetable oils.

There is insufficient public information and debate concerning the possible consequences of engaging in agrofuels production. Vulnerable communities, small and medium scaled farmers have had little opportunity to discuss and contribute viewpoints on the Biofuel’s agenda with regard to land rights, the impacts of industrial agriculture, food security and culture deterioration and environmental degradation.

As the commercial potential of productive rural lands increases across Tanzania due to a growing interest in biofuels and falsely calling this land marginal, the risk of large scale dispossession of customary lands rights belonging to farmers and pastoralists have increased. In addition, expansions of biofuels production have lead to other negative impacts such as environmental damage, to mention deforestation, industrial pollution, and indirect impacts from rising food prices where food crops are cultivated for biofuels production.

Biofuels only seems to benefit the investors and accelerate the income poverty in our country. The land used for edible crops is now used for jatropha and the likes, instead of promoting local people to grow and benefit from it, the modality of acquiring thousands of hectares does not only contribute to potential increase of poverty levels in the country, but disposes them their ownership right in exchange with good promises hard to meet and make people slaves in the plantations.

The way this plant is being promoted; The money plant, or A million dollar plant, makes me go insane in the brain, we don’t even have the policy that is guiding all these kind of investments in place, investments seem not to wait for that because it has a very little to do with it and does not require majority decisions i presume.
Elisaria s Nassari

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