The UK is using over 1.6 million hectares of land in Sub-Saharan Africa (Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Tanzania) to produce biofuel; that is the size of 3.2 million football fields or 16,000km2 (the size of Swaziland). If we then consider how much African land is being used by the EU to produce biofuels from agricultural products in Africa the number doubles to 3.2 million acres, or over ¾ the size of The Netherlands. This is due to the fact that the EU has to adhere to a target to produce 10 percent of transport energy from biofuels by 2020.
All this land which could be used to grow agricultural products is being used to grow feedstock for biofuels in countries where the main concern is to bring food to the table of hungry children this does not seem sensible, and is contributing the rise of food prices. Furthermore, the production process can emit from 3 to 6 times more greenhouse gases.
These enterprises are marginally helping development in these countries and are producing little employment for the local communities. The feed stock is grown, harvested, fuel produced and shipped out. It is not sustainable!
Recently Kenya changed its mind on the full implementation of a 50,000 hectare jathropha project near Malindi. The Kenyan franchise of the Italian company “Nuove Iniziative Industriali” has had to turn its full scale jatropha project into a small scale pilot after the Kenyan government considerably reduced the 50,000 hectare site as a consequence of protests by the Kenyan environmental groups.
Growing micro-algae for food does not interfere with land use or the production of food. Whether micro-algae is produced in photo bio-reactors, ponds or basins it will not decrease food production, It could in actual fact contribute to increasing food production if the left over biomass (after oil extraction) can be utilised as fertilizer or animal feed.
Tony Piccolo – Aquatic Biofuels Specialist, Kisumu-Kenya