The European Union's renewable fuels target is driving land grabs in Africa that threaten the environment and local communities, claims a new report from Friends of the Earth (FOE).
Africa: up for grabs - The scale and impact of land grabbing for agrofuels [PDF] reviews a series of land deals signed across more than a dozen countries in recent years. It finds that private European companies are active participants in the deals, which sometimes are made without environmental impact assessments or consent from local communities.
'Growing European and international demand for agrofuels as a transport fuel is creating market demand for agrofuels,' the report states. 'While African politicians may promise that agrofuels will bring locally sourced energy supplies to their countries, the reality is that most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market. The EU's mandatory target for increasing agrofuels is a clear driver to the land grabbing in Africa.'
The report warns that the land deals could increase food prices and exacerbate food scarcity in countries already suffering from food insecurity.
'The competition for land and the competition for staple food crops such as cassava and sweet sorghum for agrofuels is likely to push up food and land prices,' says the report.
'This competition for agricultural land raises fundamental questions about food sovereignty and government priorities. Should a country that is dependent on food aid (such as Kenya or Ethiopia) be selling fertile land to developers to grow fuel?'
In light of these concerns, FOE urges the E.U. to dump its biofuels target, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mandating that 20 percent of liquid transport fuels come from 'renewable' sources by 2020.
The environmental group calls on African governments to 'immediately suspend further land acquisitions and investments in agrofuels' and implement safeguards -including mandated environmental impact assessments and legally-binding and enforceable obligations on investors - to protect communities from exploitation.