Agrofuels are being pushed globally as an alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves. Industrialised countries are encouraging agrofuel production expansion in countries of the Global South, without understanding the impacts, not to mention the unproven climate benefits and disruption of food supplies.
Southern governments appear eager to oblige, based on loose promises of development opportunities. Mozambique is no exception. Jatropha is being pushed in Africa as a potential agrofuel crop. JA’s study on Jatropha in 2009 exposed the myths being peddled about this crop and how it is endangering food sovereignty and rural livelihoods.
Agrofuel plantations will only increase competition for water, and ultimately impact food resourcesTamil Nadu
Agrofuels are being included under ambitious renewable fuel targets in many western countries, targets that far exceed their own agricultural capacities. Europe wants agrofuels to meet 10% of their transport fuel needs by 2020, while the United States is aiming for 35 billion gallons a year. To achieve these targets, Europe would need to plant 70% of its farmland to agrofuel crops and USA would have to process their entire corn and soy harvests for fuel. These are unrealistic scenarios and would disrupt these nations’ food security. Hence the industrialised world is looking to the global South to meet their agrofuel needs, with very little consideration for the impact.
The story in Mozambique is no different. Here, the agrofuel debate has also been centered around industry speculation, demand, grand promises and foreign interests. Investors have applied for rights to close to 5 million hectares in Mozambique in 2007 alone, nearly one-seventh of the country’s officially defined “arable” land and the government is rushing to create favourable conditions for investors at the cost of civil rights of Mozambicans. A good example of this was clear with the World Bank funded National Policy and Strategy for Biofuels that purposely blocked civil society participation, lacked transparency and was only made publicly available once complete and approved by parliament.
Due to Africa’s water scarce climate and the continent’s large extent of supposedly ‘marginal’ land, Jatropha has been given the most attention as a potential agrofuel crop. JA concluded a study on Jatropha in 2009, where we exposed the commonly-peddled myths in favour of Jatropha.
- Jatropha grows on marginal land and can produce high yields on poor soils;
- Jatropha requires low water use and minimal maintenance;
- Jatropha is resistant to disease and pests;
- Jatrohpa does not present any risk to food security but is a development opportunity for subsistence farmers.
The report concludes that the dominant arguments about Jatropha as a food-security safe biofuel crop, a source of additional farm income for rural farmers, and a potential driver of rural development were misinformed at best and dangerous at worst.
In fact it is endangering food sovereignty and rural livelihoods, so we strongly recommend that support for Jatropha development in Mozambique be stopped until some of the major development issues surrounding subsistence farming are addressed and rural communities obtain food sovereignty.