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Biofuels Watch: African Land-Grab Deals Questioned

By Stacy Feldman

May 21, 2009

A recent in Der Spiegel claims that foreign investors have their eye on a full 27 million acres in Mozambique – more than one-seventh of the country – for growing energy plants. Even larger tracts of land have  been bought up in Russia and the Ukraine.

And on and on...

FPRI is not an anti-biofuels group per se. But part of its mission is to help "to improve the food security of low-income people in developing countries." The latest large land acquisitions will have the opposite effect.

The problem, writes FPRI, is in the "scale, the terms, and the speed" of the land sales. Combined, they're leaving local people dangerously food-insecure.

Their solution is an internationally accepted code of conduct with "teeth." This code would respect existing land rights and force foreign investors to end food exports when there's an acute local drought. They envision an institutional arrangement that could be modeled after the international business laws adopted in the past 10 years to prevent corrupt practices in the context of foreign direct investment.

That's great. But it won't help to cool the biofuels boom at all. Strict world standards are needed.

Recently, other scientists' groups have called on governments to ban first-generation biofuels, at least those on productive land. Last June, Oxfam International for a freeze on all government biofuel mandates. Just last month, researchers in India that jatropha plantations there are "not sustainable" and called for an immediate five-year moratorium.

The reason for the urgency is clear. In the competition for food between cars and people, the world's poorest people – in Africa and all over the planet – will necessarily lose.

See also:

Africa's Agriculture Vulnerable to Breakdown Under Climate Change

New U.S. Rules Look at Biofuels' Global Impact

Report: Burning Down Tropical Forests for Biofuels Spurs Climate Change

Agriculture seeks to

Agriculture seeks to optimize of solar energy in order to optimize the productivity of plants. Techniques such as times planting cycles, tailored row orientation, staggered heights between rows and the mixing of plants varieties can improve crop yields. However the increased of the use of biomass has had a negative effect on global warming and dramatically increased Great Lake Pizza price by diverting forests and crops into biofuel production.

I am working with commercial

I am working with commercial and emerging farmers in Southern Africa. This is true and a matter of urgency and concerns everybody. The farmers are against the wall. If they do not sell their farms, it will be taken anyway. At least foreigners pay a decent price and they can move on with their families before being murdered and robbed on the properties. Some farmers are translocating to Swaziland. Mocambique, Zambia and even Australia adn New Zealand to continue with their passion for farming and experience.

Unfortunately the SA govt are not committed to solve the issue. Those that do not sell to foreign developers, sell for mining activites which the govt approve even in eco-sensitive areas. Its not just land grab, its also greed, short sightedness and refusal to consult experts in the industry. If Africa is finished as well, what en where next?

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