New Report: Biofuels for Europe driving land grabbing in Africa

Friends of the Earth

BRUSSELS, (BELGIUM) / BENIN CITY (NIGERIA), August 30, 2010 – The amount of land being taken in Africa to meet Northern countries’ increasing demand for biofuels is underestimated and out of control, new investigations by Friends of the Earth reveal today.

The research, which looked at 11 African countries, found at least five million hectares of land – an area the size of Denmark – is being acquired by foreign companies to produce biofuels mainly for Northern markets.

The practice – known as land grabbing – is increasing and is dominated by European and Chinese companies. However with official public information largely absent, current figures are likely to be only a snapshot and gross underestimates.

The report, ‘Africa: Up For Grabs’ reveals how local communities are having their land taken and there are few safeguards for local community land rights. Forests and natural vegetation are being cleared, and biofuels are competing with food crops for farmland.

Mariann Bassey, food and agriculture coordinator for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said:

“The expansion of biofuels on our continent is transforming forests and natural vegetation into fuel crops, taking away food-growing farmland from communities, and creating conflicts with local people over land ownership. We want real investment in agriculture that allows us to produce food and not fuel for foreign cars.”

A leaked World Bank report on wider land grabbing corroborates this pattern, stating that ‘consultations with local communities were often weak… Conflicts were common, usually over land rights’. The World Bank has so far refused to release these controversial findings publicly.

In Tanzania, Madagascar and Ghana there have been protests following land-grabs by foreign companies.
Even more land will be required for biofuels if the European Union is to meet its political targets to increase transport fuels from renewable sources, according to the research.

Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:

“Our research shows that Europe’s demand for biofuels is a major driver of land grabbing in Africa. Local communities are facing increasing hunger and food insecurity just so rich countries can fuel their cars. The EU must urgently scrap its biofuel policy. We must invest instead in environmentally friendly agriculture and decrease the energy we use for transport.”

This is just one example of rich countries’ over use of the world’s resources. Friends of the Earth is calling on the EU to start measuring and curbing its use of land, water, materials, and climate emissions around the world.

A map showing the scale of the problems and a list of companies involved in growing biofuels in Africa can be found here:

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