Biofuel Production Resulting in Land Grabs

One more aspect to keep in mind next time you purchase a vehicle: a new report suggests that biofuel production is a bigger cause of land grabs than most people realised until now.


The International Land Coalition carried out intensive research that revealed that more than 50% of all land grabs in developing countries during the past 20 years could be attributed to biofuel production.


Their research covered ten years of land deals between 2000 and 2010 in the southern hemisphere and considered the acquisition of more than 200 million hectares of productive land during this period.


According to the ILC report 78% of transactions were for farming purposes, of which 75% were for biofuel production. The rest was for tourism, mining, industry and forestry purposes.


The impact of biofuel production in Africa was even bigger: 66% of land deals during the period under consideration were for biofuel production. Previously a World Bank report found that only 21% of land grab deals in Africa between 2008-9 were related to biofuel production.


The ILC report is more comprehensive than virtually any other study carried out before nearly 40 organisations collaborated to produce it.


According to the report national elite firms play a more prominent role in biofuel-related land grabs than previously thought. While large land transactions can create opportunities in some developing nations, they often cause problems for the poor who lose access to land that is essential for their livelihood.

The decisions concerning use of land may prove crucial for the future of the planet. Most smallholdings use land sustainably without even knowing they do. Low-impact farming and agriculture that doesn't involve using chemicals (in most cases simply because the smallholdings can't afford it) is the most sensible way to use land. When due to land grabs the farms are occupied by biodiesel or palm oil producers, the scenery changes dramatically. The goal is to produce as much as possible and there's no regard for sustainability.

A major side effect that comes with land grabbing is poverty. Many traditional communities depend on farming to provide for themselves. Land grabbing is more often an agreement to lease or sell the land between a corporation and a government. The original land user is almost never compensated.

The hotspots of land grabbing are Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sudan, Tanzania, Mali and Mozambique. 2.3 million hectares have been grabbed in those six countries alone in just five years.

The loudest case so far was when the Daewoo corporation leased 1.3 million hectares of land from the Madagascar government to produce palm oil for their biodiesel expansion. The farming community was never compensated.

Currently the European Union is pressing to reach the green transportation targets by 2020. Many Europe countries already add biofuel to the normal fuel that you buy at the fuel station. The UK has got very little choice and we will soon have to fill up our cars with stuff that has caused so much suffering to the developing world.

What can we do? It's about making the right consumer decision. If you have a choice, don't fill up your car with biofuel.

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