Monday, February 25, 2008

An African Call for a Moratorium on Agrofuel Developments

February 23, 2008 Category: Agrofuel, Third World

The agrofuels ‘revolution’ is replacing millions of hectares of local agricultural systems, and the rural communities working in them, with large plantations
We, the undersigned members of African civil society organizations, as well as organizations from other parts of the world, do urgently call for a moratorium on new agrofuel developments on our continent. We need to protect our food security, forests, water, land rights, farmers and indigenous peoples from the aggressive march of agrofuel developments, which are devouring our land and resources at an unbelievable scale and speed.
We call for:
0. A moratorium on new agrofuel developments in Africa. Our governments urgently need to stop and think before delivering our continent to the fuel demand of foreign investors.
0. No agrofuel targets for Governments in Europe and the rest of the world.
0. An international moratorium on agrofuel exports, until the true social and environmental costs can be assessed, and disaster averted.
We have chosen to name this problem “agrofuels” instead of the more common term “biofuels” to make clear that we are talking about the large-scale growing of crops specifically to produce liquid fuels. We are not talking about the use of wood, dung or waste matter. Nor are we talking about small-scale production that is integrated into food production and used for household and local energy supplies. We wish to make clear that the agrofuels push is about large-scale fuel production on massive privatized plantations, driven by the fuel demands of export markets.
Africa is already feeling the impact of climate change, and our continent is likely to be the hardest hit by future changes in our weather systems. We must do all we can to both mitigate the problems and adapt to the coming changes. But the agrofuels push, rather than the seductive “carbon neutral” solution it claims to be, will exacerbate Africa’s climate and food security problems even more.
The agrofuels push in Africa is being termed the next “Green Gold Rush”. Investors are rushing to privatise our land for their plantations, while our governments willingly allocate millions of hectares from the 70% of Africa’s land that is still communally owned. “Jatropha” is being pushed as one of the new miracle crops for African small farmers to produce fuel. But the reality is that the gold rush is firmly controlled by giant transnational companies which are taking over Africa’s land at an incredible pace, and are bringing about disastrous socio-economic and environmental impacts on our communities, food security, forests and water resources.
Some of the impacts that already have been observed in 2007 so far include:
0. Displacing farmers and food security in Tanzania
Thousands of Tanzanian farmers growing rice and maize are already being evicted from fertile areas of land with good access to water, for agrofuel sugar cane and jatropha plantations on newly privatised land. Villages are being cleared, but families have been given minimal compensation or opportunities for their loss of land, community and way of life. Evictions already taken place in Kisarawe District and the Usangu plains, and tens of thousands of hectares in Bagamoyo and Kilwa districts are being given to foreign investors. In addition, the government has identified millions more hectares in at least 10 other districts.
0. Deforestation for agrofuels in Uganda
In Uganda, plans to cut down thousands of hectares of the country’s largest rainforest reserve, for a sugar plantation for ethanol have fortunately been cancelled, following civil protest on the issue. Such deforestation can threaten local water cycles, as Mabira Forest is a key water catchment area for Lake Victoria and the River Nile. Unfortunately, however, thousands of hectares of forest on Kalangala and Bugala Islands in Lake Victoria have already been cut down to make way for palm oil plantations.
0. Conservation Areas Threatened in Ethiopia
Millions of hectares in Ethiopia have been identified as suitable for agrofuel production, and many foreign companies have already been allocated land from farmland, forests and wilderness areas. Even protected areas are not safe from the spread of agrofuels. One European investor has been granted 13,000 hectares of land in Oromia state – 87% of which is the Babile Elephant Sanctuary, a home to rare and endangered elephants.
0. A Bad Deal for Out-growers in Zambia
Privatized plantations are not the only model of large-scale agrofuel production in Africa. Some investors in Zambia are choosing to grow crops such as jatropha through huge numbers of out-growers, using contracts that last up to 30 years. These contracts serve to transfer control over production from the farmer to the company, through a system of loans, numerous extra charges and service payments, and prices determined by the company. Under such a system of dependence, farmers are likely to increase their indebtedness to the company, until they may be obliged to hand over their land altogether.
0. Fuel or food in West Africa?
In West Africa, the agrofuel craze is also gaining momentum. Jatropha is already being grown in Togo, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade has enthused about an African “biofuels revolution” and placed fuel crops at the heart of an agriculture renewal programme in his country. In Ghana one company is planning to plant one million hectares of Jatropha with support of the government, while in Benin another company has obtained permission to plant a quarter of a million hectares of agrofuel crops. Farmers in Benin and in many other countries in the region have, on the average, no more than 1 hectare to grow there products and the agrofuels are expected to make a serious dent into their food production.
In other words: the agrofuels ‘revolution’ is geared to replace millions of hectares of local agricultural systems, and the rural communities working in them, with large plantations. It is oriented to substitute biodiversity-based indigenous cropping, grazing and pasture farming systems by monocultures and genetically engineered agrofuel crops. In addition, the millions of hectares of what the agrofuel-pushers euphemistically call “wastelands” or “marginal soils”, are to be turned to ‘productive’ fuel production, conveniently forgetting that millions of people in local communities make a living from these fragile ecosystems. And where there are no indigenous farming systems to replace, one just takes the forests. In the drivers seat are the multinational corporations that manage these kinds of huge monocultures best and already control the international market for agrofuels.
In Africa, much of the drive for agrofuel developments comes from talk of achieving national energy security. However, in most countries there seems to be a failure to recognize that foreign companies are already controlling the direction of biofuel production, with an eye on targeting more lucrative export markets. Rising global oil prices will determine the price of liquid biofuels, and is likely to price fuel and feedstock out of the reach of the poor, and into export markets in the North.
We simply do not believe that agrofuels offer a genuine solution for climate change or energy security. Scientific studies show that the production, processing and transport of agrofuels, uses more energy than is contained in the fuel product. Other studies show that the cutting down and burning of forests and peatlands to make way for agrofuel plantations, produces many times more carbon dioxide emissions per litre of agrofuel than the equivalent amount of fossil fuel. The current push for agrofuels exacerbate, rather than solve, the problem of climate change.
To address climate change, we don’t need agrofuel plantations to produce fuel energy. Instead, we need to turn the industrial production system upside down. We need policies and strategies to reduce the consumption of energy and to prevent waste. Such policies and strategies already exist and are being fought for. In agriculture and food production, they mean orienting production towards local rather than international markets; they mean adopting strategies to keep people on the land, rather than throwing them off; they mean supporting sustained and sustainable approaches for bringing biodiversity back into agriculture, using and expanding on local knowledge; and they mean putting local communities back in the driving seat of rural development. Such policies and strategies imply the use and further development of agro-ecological technologies to maintain and improve soil fertility and organic matter and in the process to sequester carbon dioxide in the soil rather than expelling it into the atmosphere. Together, such measures would amount to a formidable step in the right direction in the fight against climate change.
Among Africa’s many challenges, food security is one of the most serious. A full car tank of ethanol uses the same amount of grain that can feed a child for a year. We do not understand how our governments can willingly take our food, land and water to meet the fuel luxuries of the wealthy in the North, when we already face problems of food security and environmental destruction at home.
We can ill afford to lose our food, forests, land and water, if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and food insecurity. We therefore ask our African governments and those of the North to stop and think. We urgently call for a moratorium that can protect Africa from the many threats of the new and dangerous Agrofuels stampede.
Please sign on to this Call by sending an email with your name, organization and country to:
From Africa:
1. Mahinou Senade Nestor, Synergie Paysanne, Benin
2. Desalegn Tanga, Wolyta Soddo Pensioners
3. Elbethel Tadesse, ABN Seed GETCO, Ethiopia
4. Gebremehdin Birega, Africa Biodiversity Network, Ethiopia
5. Melaku Werede, Scientific Advisor, Ethiopia
6. Million Belay, MELCA, Ethiopia
7. Sue Edwards, ISD, Ethiopia
8. Tadesse Reta, Ejera Indigenous Seed Conservatory Association,
9. Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Environmental Protection Agency,
10. Tsion Yohannes, MELCA, Ethiopia
11. Bakari Nyari, RAINS, Ghana
12. Gilbert Iddi Seidu, University for Development Studies, Ghana
13. Naa Thomas Tia Sulemana, RAINS, Ghana
14. Salifu Yussif Abudulai, RAINS, Ghana
15. Alice Mashinde, Appropriate Rural Development Agriculture
Programme, Kenya
16. Basilius Kagwi Ndirangu, Porini, Kenya
17. Collins Ochieng Otieno, CREP Programme, Kenya
18. Gathuru Mburu, Africa Biodiversity Network, Kenya
19. Jackson Wafula, SMART Initiative, Kenya
20. Paul Karanja, SACDEP, Kenya
21. Regina Mutheca, SACDEP, Kenya
22. Zachary Makanya, PELUM, Kenya
23. Lamine Biaye, ASPSP, Senegal
24. Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, GRAIN, South Africa
25. Jabulani Bonginkosi Tembe, Kwa-Nganase Farmer Organisation, South
26. Katja Abbott, ABN, South Africa
27. Lawrence Mkhaliphe, Biowatch, South Africa
28. Mphatheleni Makaulule, Mupo Foundation, South Africa
29. Abdallah Ramadhani Mkindi, Envirocare, Tanzania
30. Chacha Benedict Wambura, Foundation Help, Tanzania
31. Peter Kidimba, Ileje Rural Development Organisation, Tanzania
32. Renatha Abel Kimathi, NGAS, NI, Tanzania
33. Agnes Kirabo, VEDCO, Uganda
34. Geoffrey Kayama, Harvest Help, Zambia
From other parts of the world:
35. Vanubia Martins, ASA, Brazil
36. Vijay Singh Negi, Beej Bachad Andolan, India
37. Alex Thanthriarachi, Protection of Indigenous Seeds, Sri Lanka
38. Henk Hobbelink, GRAIN, Spain

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Zambia's Mwape and Luembe chiefdom villagers in uproar...

Members of the Nyendwa Royal Clan recently travelled to Mwape and Luembe to pave the way for 1), Senior Chief Luembe (their brother) to re-assume his responsibilities and signed commitments to the Luembe Conservancy Trust, and 2), to deal with Chieftainess Mwape (their sister) over her part in the illegal alienation of the northern portion of the West Mvuvye National Forest No. 54, as well as to discuss the proposed formation of the Mwape Community Trust - based on the Landsafe model pioneered by the Luembe Trust. Talks were held with Mwape headmen who complained that their area is not being well governed and that, in particular, they will not entertain the formation of any trust involving Chieftainess Mwape until such time as the people who had illegally acquired the forest have departed the area. They are particularly bitter about the fact that guards hired by Patel are barring them from access to thatching grass and loshi (binding bark).

And in Luembe, the Luembe Community Resource Board have met - along with representatives of the community, to discuss the decision by the Minister of Home Affairs to deny their partners, Gamefields and Mbeza Safaris, self-employed permits for their three executive shareholders. The result of this is a signed petition addressed to the Minister of Home Affairs, copied to their District Commissioner, stating that they consider such action to be counter to their efforts to bring development to what is one of the poorest districts in Zambia.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Victory at last in West Mvuvye National Forest...!!

The Lands and Deeds office has cancelled the 99 year lease obtained by Z. Patel for the Mwape section of the West Mvuvye National Forest; and the Royal Luembe Trust has withdrawn its application for the alienation of the Luembe section of the same forest. The Luembe Conservancy Trust and the Trust soon to be formed in Mwape, will now be able to resume their attempts to manage the area for the benefit of the community and the forest itself. And we will continue to resist any attempts to de-gazette the forest.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Zambia's Surveyor-General not obeyed??

On 23 July 2007, the Surveyor-General of Zambia wrote to the Lands and Deeds office instructing that the 99 year lease given out to a businessman for the Mwape section of the West Mvuvye National Forest No. 54 be terminated forthwith. When one of the Mwape people inquired of the lady at the Lands and Deeds office why this had not been done, she replied that she had not written the letter as she had no secretary!!

Zambia's deforestation rate...

The FAO Forest Resources Assessment study for Zambia in 2005 concluded that the average annual deforestation rate for the country is 467, 368 hectares, or 4673 km2. What this means is that an area the size of the West Petauke Game Management Area is deforested every year.

13 km2 a day!

The most recent figure I heard, emanating from a Finnish study, stated that over the last 9 years, 26% of our forest was lost.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Zambia's National Policy on Environment (draft May 2005)...still not ratified.

Zambia’s Forest Sector : Its Current State

• Widespread forest clearance and degradation.
• Forest degradation leading to reduced biodiversity.
• Failure of local assessment and implementation of forest laws to
prevent over harvesting.
• Unplanned clearance for farmland.
• Far too much uncontrolled annual burning.
• Destructive methods of harvesting.
• Unsustainable charcoal production requiring greater management
inputs and awareness raising.
• Fuel-wood demand increased and alternative energy not given
sufficient attention at all levels.
• As a consequence of inadequate forest management there is
widespread loss of productivity, erosion, siltation, reduction in
stream flow and other negative impacts verging in many places
upon desertification.
• Poor management of forest cover is probably contributing to
climate change.

Forestry and The National Policy on Environment

a) Objective
To manage the Nation's natural forest resources in a sustainable manner
to maximize benefit to the Nation and especially forest dependent
communities retaining their ecological integrity.
b) Guiding Principles
• Deforestation is a major factor in soil erosion, siltation of lakes,
rivers, dams and other water bodies, loss of biodiversity and
climate change.
• The involvement of the private sector, NGOs and local
communities in forestry is critical to improved management,
conservation and sustainable utilization.
• Promotion of private plantation and homestead forestry should be
• Community-based participation in the management of Forest
Reserves, Protected Forest Areas and forests on customary lands
shall be promoted.
• Local communities that participate in the management of
indigenous forest resources shall receive financial and other
benefits from their sustainable utilization.
• Inventorying and monitoring should be an integral part of
sustainable forestry management.
• Sustainable forest resource management and control of
deforestation should best be enhanced on the basis of appropriate
research, production forestry development and extension.
• Appropriate subsidiary legislation and regulations at the district
level are essential to effective implementation of forest policy.

c) Strategies
• Provide an enabling framework for promoting the participation of
local communities, NGOs and the private sector in forest
conservation and Joint Forest Management.
• Establish appropriate incentives that should promote the effective
contribution of Zambia's forest resources and on-farm trees to the
alleviation of poverty, sustainable economic development and
environmental protection.
• Provide economic incentives and the necessary legal framework
and technology to encourage and facilitate rural communities to
introduce alternative sources of energy to gradually reduce
reliance upon fuel wood and charcoal.
• Take direct measures to control charcoal production and organise
sustainable practices which include rehabilitation of seriously
degraded woodland.
• Promote development and dissemination of agro-forestry practices.
• Promote dissemination of indigenous knowledge about the
medicinal and other properties of Zambia's indigenous forest
resources and where possible assist in marketing such knowledge
for the benefit of the custodians of the knowledge.
• Introduce marketing and pricing policy reforms that provide
industrial fuel wood users with incentives to invest in tree planting
and woodland management.
• Ensure the sustainable utilization of forest resources by practicing
conservation in the use of forest products, improving specifically
the efficiency of fuel wood conservation, recycling paper through
incentives and regulations and substituting fuel wood with
alternatives such as paraffin, solar energy, biogas, electricity and
coal where feasible.
• Promote and support the conservation and protection of forest
ecosystems and the growing of trees by individuals, companies,
estates, local communities and authorities, including the integration
of forests and trees into farming systems, soil conservation
activities and land-use systems.
• Involve local communities in afforestation and rehabilitation of bare,
fragile or erosion-prone areas.
• Have particular regard to protection and rehabilitation of evergreen
riparian mushitu woodland, especially along upper river drainage
• Assist communities to set up appropriate management institutions
to control the use of forestry resources on customary land on a
sustainable basis.
• Promote forest conservation measures for civil works, including
minimal tree destruction when constructing roads, prohibiting
encroachment of protected areas.
• Provide alternative income generating activities that should reduce
pressure on forestry products such as the commercial use of Non-
timber Forest Products.
• Establish a forum where interested parties in forestry issues can
share ideas.
• Conduct well designed research programmes or adapt exogenous
technologies to local conditions in order to generate usable
technologies for the sustained management of planted and natural
forest resources.
• Revise and update the Forest Act in order to strengthen it in line
with the National Forestry Policy and to promote participatory
forest management and sustainable utilization of forest resources
having particular regard for private sector and participation of
women in all aspects of forest resource management.
• Continue the conservation and management of gazetted forestry
reserves and prohibit encroachment into Protected Forest Areas.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Zambia forest alienations...

The curious co-mingling of plans by Government for a Multi-facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) and Lusaka South Wildlife and Recreation Park in forest reserves 26 and 55, without full stakeholder consultation, and without the necessary EIA procedures - as is required under the Pollution and Control Act, is further evidence that it is politicians alone who chart our destiny. And this is the area long recognized as being essential to the health of Lusaka's water supplies, one inscribed in the National Water Plan. The Guardian Weekly exposes this all brilliantly. There are the usual players: the donor - seemingly unaware of its contradictory role; the Ministers - deciding what is best for us, contemptuously ignoring the opposition of the local member of Parliament; the foreign investors and their full saddle bags eager to cash in; the parastatal - on the lookout for income generation; the local hybrid - part conservationist, part sefl-serving opportunist, head well below the parapet and so out of the line of fire; and the splendidly emergent ZAMBIAN opposition to another Legacy.

Zambia forests face a new and massive threat…

Zambia, and ten other countries that still have large areas of intact forest may be left out of an emerging carbon market intended to promote rainforest conservation and combat climate change.

Conservation International report that a study published August 14 in the Public Library of Science Biology journal warns that the "high forest cover with low rates of deforestation" (HFLD) nations could become the most vulnerable targets for deforestation if the Kyoto Protocol and upcoming negotiations on carbon trading fail to include intact standing forest. The study by scientists from Conservation International (CI), the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and the University of California-Santa Barbara calls for the HFLD countries to receive "preventive credits" under any carbon trading mechanism to provide incentive for them to protect their intact tropical forest. Otherwise, the same market and economic forces that cause deforestation elsewhere will quickly descend on regions that so far have avoided significant loss, the authors say.

Cutting and burning tropical forests releases the atmospheric carbon they store, contributing significantly to global climate change. The HFLD countries contain 20 percent of Earth's remaining tropical forest, including some of the richest ecosystems.

"Given the very large -- and likely still underestimated -- role of tropical deforestation in causing climate change, these forest-rich countries should be at the forefront of worldwide efforts to sequester carbon, rather than being left out entirely," said CI President Russell A. Mittermeier, an author of the study. "With this paper, we hope to highlight this critical issue and put it on the table for future negotiations."

Until now, the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent discussions have focused on carbon credits for new or replanted forests that replace the carbon storage services of destroyed forests. New rules being discussed by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change for implementation subsequent to Kyoto are likely to create a carbon market for countries that reduce their deforestation from levels of recent years. That would cover countries that have lost large portions of their original tropical forest, as well as those that still have more than half their forest cover but face current high rates of deforestation. In contrast, 11 HFLD countries with more than half their original forest intact and low rates of current deforestation would receive no credits for standing forests.
"The minute that you exclude those countries, their forests lose economic value in the global carbon market, leaving governments with little reason to protect them," said study co-author Gustavo Fonseca of CI and Brazil's Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.

The HFLD countries are Panama, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Belize, Gabon, Guyana, Suriname, Bhutan and Zambia, along with French Guiana, which is a French territory. Three of them -- Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana -- comprise much of the Guayana Shield region of the northern Amazon that is the largest intact tract of tropical forest on Earth. In addition, portions of other large non-HFLD countries are in the same situation. For example, although Brazil has four other major ecosystems, the Brazilian Amazon faces a similar circumstance as HFLD countries.

According to the study, preventive credits for HFLD countries at a conservative carbon price of U.S. $10 per ton would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, providing governments with significant economic incentive to protect tropical forests that store atmospheric carbon and supply essential natural benefits for local populations such as clean water, food, medicines and natural resources.

CI believes any carbon credit mechanism should include full representation, participation and consultation by indigenous and local communities of tropical forest regions to ensure that conservation and development programs proceed in accordance with their rights and traditional ways of life as stewards of the crucial ecosystems in which they live.

Along with Fonseca and Mittermeier, the study's other authors are Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Lee Hannah of CI, Guy Midgley of the Kirstenbosch Research Center at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and Jonah Busch of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC-Santa Barbara.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Report from the Luembe community...

I have just managed to find the file reference number for Royal Luembe Limited: ORS/102/83/95. This is the file at the Ministry of Lands.

On Monday, despite some unhelpful officials, Luembe community representatives will continue on the trail of the illegal Mvuvye alienations.