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Biofuels: a threat to food security and landrights


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Topic: Biofuels


Policy recommendations

  • The European Union must  abandon the 10% target for renewable energy incorporation in transport as this leads to land grabbing in developing countries to increase the production of biofuels, to the detriment of poverty eradication and food security
  • The European Union must address land grabbing by expanding the current sustainability criteria to include social standards, by for one recognising land rights
  • These criteria must be legally binding to guarantee that the rural populations who live off marginal lands and forests are not hurt by expanding agricultural production;
  • The European Union must consider the effects of Indirect Land Use Change in the Renewable Energy Directive. The directive must not undermine the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and global food security;
  • The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the RED must take specific note of the impact of EU biofuels targets on food security and other development issues.

Personal Story

Along the road leading into Mavuji village, a town around 300 km south of Dar es Salaam, we are sitting on a makeshift bench constructed from a wooden plank and two pots. It is mid-afternoon on a dusty day and the smell of the burning asphalt penetrates the air. The village chairman is chewing on a piece of sugarcane, spitting the indigestible fibre on the road. Makale Kamonga points in the direction of his new home, where he lives with his wife and five children. Six years ago local government officials showed up at his farm, telling him that he was to receive 1 million Tanzanian Shillings (almost €500)132 and had to leave his land. Dutch company BioShape wanted to use his land to begin a jatropha plantation. Mr. Kamonga had been living on his farm for eight years, growing sorghum and other crops, even some fruits, which he sold at the market.

Mr. Kamonga recalls feeling sad and angry when he learned he would be forced to leave his land to make way for a jatropha plantation. He argues the compensation was unreasonable, and in no way way sufficient to acquire a new plot of land elsewhere, let alone compared to the crops he was growing and the money he made from them. Mr. Kamonga made no effort to protest the decision, fearing that doing so might result in him losing everything: “I don’t have much education, how can I defend myself? There is the government, and there are so many people involved. I accept it. There is nothing I can do. I took what they gave me”. Mr. Kamonga tried to get involved in the decision-making process around the company, but feels there was no decision-making power from the community members whatsoever, which he feels is reflected in the allocation of the financial compensation: “The compensation was all taken by the District and the village executive officer.”

BioShape offered him a job at the plantation, and gave him a year to move house. Working at the company site as casual labour, he was happy with his job, getting paid regularly and doing all sorts of manual tasks: “I like BioShape, the company was ok. But I was in great damage when they left.” Two years ago, when BioShape left, he started a new farm with the money he saved up. “My farm now is very small. It is too small to support a family like mine. [...] I am managing to support them, through scraps and odd jobs. I’m cutting timber here, picking charcoal there, to make some money and make ends meet. It’s tough. I have a family of five and a wife to support. Worst of all, I cannot send my children to secondary school now. But at least we are getting by.”

Jasper van Teeffelen, Mavuji village, September 2012