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The Chairman of Friends of the Earth (FOE), Ghana, a non-governmental environmental organisation, has challenged African leaders to kick against attempts by the West, to use the Jatropha plant and agricultural-based renewable energy generation alternatives, at the expense of food production.
Mr Nnimmo Bassey stressed: “The time has come for our political leaders, to make a firm decision on moves by the advanced countries, to scramble for so called marginal lands for the cultivation of Jatropha and other crops for bio fuel.”
Speaking at a day’s workshop in Accra, on Thursday, Mr Bassey urged African countries, to resist the “sugar coated” decision, since it would further deepen the continent’s food and water crises, sanitation problems, poverty and land tenure difficulties.
The workshop was a side event organised by FOE to “discuss challenges pertaining to biofuel development,” “myth of marginal land right” and “global food crisis, policy option for Africa”.
Mr Bassey said: “The drive for biofuel is one of the major factors that have contributed to food crisis worldwide, between 2008 and 2009. This came about because five per cent of grains, which can feed a village for a year were used to fuel machines.”
He cited an example in Swaziland, where a company called D 1 Oils Jatropha, convinced local farmers to cultivate the plant because it does not need plenty water to thrive.
Mr Bassey said the farmers who took the bait, later found out that they had to water the plant on regular basis.
“For a continent that has water shortage this is surely an avoidable problem.”
He said the time had come for the continent to explore other sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.
Ms Cheryl Agyepong, Programme Co-ordinator of FOE said the drive for biofuels as alternative renewable energy had increased as the world was running short of fossil resources.
She said currently, the European Union had set a mandatory target of about five per cent of motor fuel from biofuels by 2010, while the US was aiming at 28.4 billion litres of the energy by 2012.
Ms Agyepong said the notion by Europeans that Africa and Asia had vast marginal lands for the cultivation of Jatropha was not true.
She said in 2008, a senior World Bank economist in a report stated that biofuels accounted for 75 per cent of food price increases globally.
Ms Agyepong expressed worry about several biofuel plantations that have been earmarked for Africa, where the people are suffering from food insecurity.