Biofuels can boost African food production, study finds - July 23, 2010
Growing crops such as sugar cane and jatropha for fuel in Africa will help rather than hinder the continent’s production of food, a new study says.
Critics have expressed concern that the increasing global demand for bioenergy has pushed African farmers to focus land and resources on producing crops for fuel to export overseas rather than food for local hungry populations.
But the study presented today at the African Agricultural Science Week in Burkina Faso, finds instead that sufficient land is available in Africa to farm for both food and fuel. In addition, investments from companies and local governments aimed at increasing biofuel production will also benefit the land and infrastructure required for food crops.
The study reviews existing research on biofuel production in six African countries, including Mozambique, Mali and Kenya. It finds, for example, that Mozambique has huge untapped agricultural potential - only 10 percent of the country’s 36 million ha of arable land is currently being used. The study suggests that some of the available farm land could be used to grow crops for biofuel without affecting food production.
The report adds that in the less developed countries of Africa, "it is possible to triple [food crop] yields by using improved management practices, potentially freeing up more land for bioenergy production."
"There have been individual instances where bioenergy production has produced negative impacts, but that does not mean it is not possible to develop this sector in a sustainable manner," says Dr Rocio Diaz-Chavez, the report's lead author and a biofuels policy researcher at Imperial College London.
The report recommends that Africa develops a comprehensive regional biofuels policy to regulate the growing industry.
Nature News: Biofuels can boost African food production, study finds http://ff.im/-o9ZAy