Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Algae fuel firms face moment of truth

BBC News

Algae fuel firms face moment of truth

Something green is growing in the state of Texas.

More famous for its oil prospectors than green entrepreneurs, it is home to a surprisingly large conurbation of algae start-ups.
They are part of the latest generation of firms trying to solve the problems that have prevented algae making any meaningful contribution to the world's energy needs.
Algae fuel is based on technologies which seek to use algae or bacteria to produce fuels by combining light, carbon dioxide, water and nutrients through photosynthesis.
It is a dream which has arisen every time the oil price has spiked.

Read more:

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Poor rapeseed crop deepens cloud over EU biofuels

Poor rapeseed crop deepens cloud over EU biofuels

The European Union's disappointing rapeseed harvest looks set to feed a jump in biodiesel imports, worsening prospects for the bloc's own biofuels plants, which are already in a "critical situation".

While declining to put a figure on their estimate, US Department of Agriculture attaches in the EU warned that a "shortage" of rapeseed oil "could trigger an increase in imports of biodiesel from countries like Argentina and Indonesia" into 2012.

Argentina, the third-ranked producer of soybeans, is turning an increasing proportion of its soyoil into biodiesel to capture value gained from the processing chain.

Indonesia is the top producer of palm oil, another biodiesel source, albeit with a higher freezing point making the vegetable oil a less useful biofuel feedstock for colder countries.

Biodiesel imports were likely to prove especially strong in EU countries which have not implemented rules on sustainable sourcing for biofuels, the attaches added.

'Critical situation'

The comments follow an estimate from Oil World, the German-based oilseeds analysis group, that EU imports of biodiesel in calendar 2011 will jump 21% to 2.52m tonnes.

Imports from Argentina will soar 28% to 1.33m tonnes.
The competitiveness of imports against the EU's supplies - whose price are inflated by the impact of poor harvests in raising the costs of rapeseed, the main feedstock – has left many biodiesel groups in a "critical situation" with a risk of closures, the European Biodiesel Board industry group has warned.

The board estimates that biodiesel plants are operating at only 44% of their capacity, of 22.1m tonnes.

The bloc's bioethanol industry is also under pressure, thanks to historically high prices of its main feedstock, wheat and rivalry with cheap US ethanol, although a shake-up in tariffs looks set to make America's exports less competitive in Europe.

Disappointing harvest

The USDA attaches estimated EU rapeseed imports rising 16.6% to 3.0m tonnes in 2011-12, an extra 350,000 tonnes on the department's official forecast, to fill some of the gap left by a disappointing harvest.

The bloc's rapeseed harvest fell this year for a second season, by 1.3m tonnes to 19.4m tonnes on attaché estimates, "mainly as a result of lower production in Germany, Poland, Romania and Denmark".

Imports of rapeseed oil, the raw material for biodiesel, will also rise more than the USDA is expecting, by 36% to an all-time high of 750,000 tonnes.

Even so increased imports of the oilseed itself from Ukraine, Australia, and Canada "will not fully offset lower EU rapeseed production", the attaches said in a report.

Rapeseed vs sunflower seed

Indeed, the tightness in supplies, reflected on the world market, will prompt a "partial shift" to the sunflower complex, following a record EU harvest, estimated by the attaches rising 15.2% to 7.95m tonnes.

Because the price for rapeseed oil is expected to remain high, it is likely that consumption of sunflower oil will increase," the attaches said in a report.
The bumper sunflower crop reflects "good" weather, which "resulted in excellent yields", besides rising sowings in Bulgaria, France, Romania and Spain.

"Significantly higher sunflower production is being reported in France, Romania, Portugal and Spain," the briefing said.


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Biofuel policy needs rethink, says UN expert

Biofuel policy needs rethink, says UN expert

AFP – Fri, Nov 25, 2011

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food urged the EU for a rethink on biofuels Friday, saying huge errors had been committed in the initial enthusiasm for an alternative to harmful fossil fuels.
"The more biofuels the EU produces, the more it will be forced to import vegetable oils from the rest of the world," said Olivier De Schutter.

As the European Commission prepares to release a report on the question early next year, the UN expert admitted it would be difficult to turn back given the huge investments made by farmers attracted by pledges of a booming biofuel market.

With the European Union committed to producing 10 percent of its energy in renewables by 2020, massive investments have also been made in buying land in Africa to produce sugar or sweet potatoes for biofuels.

"We may have to fundamentally rethink this policy," he said at a Brussels press conference.

Officials, experts and scientists were increasingly underlining errors made in the past few years in backing biofuels. Headlined as a magic solution to global warming, it was now surfacing that biofuels "are not an efficient way of reducing greenhouse gases," he said.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Articles from Biotechnology for Biofuels

Biotechnology for Biofuels | Article alert

Article alert

The latest articles from Biotechnology for Biofuels, published between 14-Nov-2011 and 28-Nov-2011

For articles which have only just been published, you will see a 'provisional PDF' corresponding to the accepted manuscript. A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.

Chemical and morphological characterization of sugarcane bagasse submitted to delignification process for enhanced enzymatic digestibility
Rezende CA, Lima MA, Maziero P, deAzevedo ER, Garcia W, Polikarpov I
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:54 (28 November 2011)
[Abstract] [Provisional PDF]
Pretreatment of microcrystalline cellulose in organic electrolyte solutions for enzymatic hydrolysis
Tian X, Fang Z, Jiang D, Sun X
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:53 (19 November 2011)
[Abstract] [Provisional PDF] [PubMed]
Composition and hydrothermal pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification performance of grasses and legumes from a mixed species prairie
DeMartini JD, Wyman CE
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:52 (15 November 2011)
[Abstract] [Provisional PDF] [PubMed]
High throughput screening of hydrolytic enzymes from termites using a natural substrate derived from sugar cane bagasse
Lucena SA, Lima LS, Cordeiro LS, Sant'Anna C, Constantino R, Azambuja P, de Souza W, Garcia ES, Genta FA
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:51 (14 November 2011)
[Abstract] [Provisional PDF] [PubMed]
Functional characterization and target discovery of Glycoside Hydrolases from Lower Termite Coptotermes gestroi Digestome
Franco Cairo JL, Leonardo FC, Alvarez TM, Ribeiro DA, Buchli F, Costa-Leonardo A, Carazzolle MF, Costa FF, Paes Leme AF, Pereira GA, Squina FM
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:50 (14 November 2011)
[Abstract] [Provisional PDF] [PubMed]

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Stand Up for Climate Justice March in London, 3rd December


Please show your solidarity with the people of the majority world and make a stand for climate justice by attending these two events organised by Campaign against Climate Change to coincide with the Durbam climate talks:

March and Rally in London, Saturday 3rd December
Assemble 12 noon at Blackfriars Bridge, North end (on the slip road West into Embankment) for the Climate Justice March to Parliament.

"Climate  Refugee Vigil"
Midnight Friday 2nd on the Thames foreshore near the Millenium bridge


7% of the world's population produce 50% of the world's emissions
7% of the world's emissions are produced by 50% of the world's population

For background info on this see here.

Bring your placard / t-shirt / cardboard cut-out / symbol for 7% to the demo

Full timetable and event details


Friday 2nd-Saturday 3rd 

11.30 pm to 1.00 am,

Climate Refugee Vigil
  on the Thames foreshore .  

See more information here.

Saturday 3rd December :

Pre-March Activities:

11.30 am Climate Prayers  oganised by Christian Ecolgy Link at St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London EC2V 6AU

 Please join our meditative prayer meeting at the beautiful church of St.Mary-le-Bow.  We will be praying for the United Nations climate conference in Durban. If you would like to practice the Taize songs please meet us at 11 am in the church. There are toilets in the church and cafes near-by. At 12 noon we will leave to join the Climate Justice March.

 Teach Out and 'Climate Walk of Shame' organised by 'Occupy LSX'

10.30-12.00 Steps of St Paul's, Climate Justice teach out and open space workshop - All Welcome !!!

12.00-12.45  Climate walk of shame taking in some unsavoury sites of climate criminality, and ending at 12.45 at Blackfriars to join march

Climate Justice March

12 noon  (Saturday 3rd) Assemble for the march at Blackfriars Bridge, North end (on the slip road West into Embankment). The march will leave around 1.00 pm. March in support of the tens of thousands mobilising in South Africa to demand climate justice at the Durban Climate Talks.

2.30 - 3.00 pm  Climate Justice Rally outside Parliament. Demonstrators will split into two groups to prepresent the 7% versus the 50% (see above) and demand urgent action to achieve a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030.

3.30 pm End of event.

Many thanks, Ian.


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Argentina: death in soya war

Argentina: death in soya war

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


by Nick Caistor, LAB

The death in mid-November of Cristian Ferreyra, a member of a peasant farmer organization in the north of Argentina has focussed attention on a struggle between small farmers and their families and large landowners anxious to clear their land to plant profitable soy-bean crops for export.

Ferreyra, aged 23, was shot and killed at home in San Antonio, in the province of Santiago del Estero. Another man was seriously wounded in the incident.

Two men alleged to have been hired by a local landowner have been arrested for the shooting, which came after repeated threats against the Santiago del Estero Peasant Movement (MOCASE). His death led to large protest marches in the capital of the province and in Buenos Aires.

'They come in a car with papers for us to sign,' says Gloria, a MOCASE member. 'They say they're the legal owners of the land. But we own it, we live on it, and we farm it.'

And, says Gloria, the pressure does not stop there. 'If we don't sign, the paramilitaries and the police come. They threaten to kill us.'

MOCASE has been campaigning for more than 20 years against the expropriation of land in the dry region of the north of Argentina, and for small-scale farming to be promoted rather than large scale properties usually planted with soya grown for export.

'Many families live in the wooded areas remaining in Santiago del Estero, and they help sustain peasant farming communities. So to authorise clearing of the woods implies, in practice, the eviction of the peasants. It is to be regretted that the provincial government encourages deforestation and the violation of the rights of rural inhabitants,' said Hernán Giardini, head of Greenpeace Argentina.

According to Greenpeace, some 70% of native forests in Argentina have been lost in recent years, as the frontier of land for intensive agriculture has rapidly advanced through the central and northern provinces.

Santiago del Estero, together with neighbouring Salta and Chaco, have lost the greatest amount of forests, which according to data from the Department of National Environmental and Sustainable Development were cleared at the rate of 280,000 hectares per year between 1998 and 2006.

In recent months, Santiago del Estero landowners have stepped up attempts to evict families from land they have farmed for years. The businessmen claim to have legal titles to the properties, and have often hired former policemen and other security staff to remove the peasant farmers.

More than a hundred of these producers have formed the group Santiago Justo y Productivo; according to Argentine press reports, the group claims the violence began with members of MOCASE, who they say destroyed machinery, tore down barbed wire, and attacked their workers.

MOCASE, which is supported by some 8,000 peasant families in the province, has organised resistance to these land grabs and the clearing of forests in the north of the province. MOCASE claims that the big landowners acquired the titles to the land during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) but that peasant farmers have been farming them for subsistence in the years since then.

Ferreyra was one of those who guarded the land claimed by the peasant farmers, and had been a member of MOCASE for several years.

The provincial governor Gerardo Zamora, of the governing Kirchnerist tendency within Peronism, has set up a 'mesa de diálogos' to try to get both sides to sit down and discuss the problem. So far, without much success.

Argentina's soya production has grown enormously in the past twenty years, increasing by more than 200% since 1995. According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute, a US-based environmental NGO, more than 98% of that production is of GM soya.

MOCASE, however, insists on 'food sovereignty'. It says that priority should be given to making Argentina and its population self-sufficient in food rather than growing crops for export. The local farmers grow cotton and maize, as well as keeping herds of goats and cattle to produce meat, milk and cheeses.

In October 2011 MOCASE and other peasant organizations from nine provinces held the first national congress of the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indigena (National Indigenous Peasant Movement).

Among other demands, the participants called for an end to land evictions, and stressed that food sustainability should be the government's priority. 'Food should not be treated as a commodity. The land is there to feed the people,' said Cristina Loaiza, a member of MOCASE who attended the Congress.

In a statement, the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI) declared: 'this violence comes from the agro-business model. The dead, the wounded, the evictions are all from the peasant communities. The State creates the conditions enabling the power of money to impose its logic of destruction and death.'

'These models of production are being questioned, and as Argentine men and women we need to understand that on the one side is life, on the other death. One side signifies work and dignity, the other profits for the few. One side means national food sovereignty, the other, domination by transnational companies.'

This article was submitted to LAB by Sue Branford


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Saturday, November 26, 2011

UNEP report on "Bridging the Emissions Gap" - lots of biomass and biofuel

The UNEP press release is at


This report by UNEP is to try and work out how to cut the amount of global carbon emissions in 2020 to the level where temperature should not rise by over 2 degree C.

It mentions biofuels for road transport and for aviation (it does not think they will be used much for shipping). Also biomass for electricty.

Some of the paras mentioning biofuels are copied below:

Biofuel (page 40 of

Emissions cuts potential for transport (excluding aviation and shipping):

Biofuels (Aviation).
Low-carbon alternatives to aviation kerosene
may include biofuels, although associated indirect
emissions must be considered. Lifecycle reductions of
up 80% have been claimed (IATA, 2009); the emissions
associated with land-use change vary significantly but
may reduce carbon-savings or even lead to an increase
(Stratton et al., 2010). This chapter, however, follows IPCC
guidelines in accounting for indirect emissions elsewhere,
i.e. we assume biofuels deliver a 100% reduction in
aviation (and shipping) CO2 emissions.

The contribution of biofuels has been estimated by CCC
(2009) to be ¡Ü2% by 2030 under what was described as
a ¡°likely¡± scenario, ~3% for an ¡°optimistic¡± scenario, and
5% for a ¡°speculative¡± scenario. Similarly, a 2% market
penetration of biofuels by 2020 was deemed feasible by
Novelli (2011).

Biofuels (Road transport)
According to a preliminary analysis by the International
Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the potential
to reduce emissions from the transportation sector
(excluding aviation and shipping, see Chapter 4) by 2020
is about 1.7 GtCO2e. The majority of this reduction could
come from technology options, including expanded
use of biofuels and improved vehicle efficiency (ICCT,
forthcoming). A breakdown of this potential is as follows:
on-road: 0.4 GtCO2e; biofuels: 0.15 GtCO2e; modal
shift: 0.8 GtCO2e; activity reduction: 0.25 GtCO2e.

and biomass at

One scenario expects a contribution in 2020 of 20 EJ from
¡°biomass with CCS¡±, and another a contribution of 26 EJ
by non-biomass renewables.


The share of total primary energy from biomass in
2020 ranges from 7 to 17%, compared with 9 to 12% in
2005. The reduced use of biomass in the short-term in the
GEA-efficiency scenario is due to the successful adoption
of energy access policies and the resulting substitution
of traditional biomass by modern and clean fuels in the
developing world.


Producing up to 17% of total primary energy in 2020
from biomass. (As compared to about 10.5% in 2005).

Background to the report:

What 2020 emission levels are consistent with the 2¡ãC
and 1.5¡ãC limits?

The report found that if global emissions do not exceed
44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (ranging from
39 to 44 GtCO2e) in 2020 and global emissions are rapidly
reduced afterwards; then it is ¡°likely¡± that global warming
will be limited to 2¡ãC. A ¡°likely¡± chance has greater than
66% probability.

What are the expected global emissions in 2020, if the
pledges announced by countries are fulfilled?

According to The Emissions Gap Report, if emissions
pledges announced by countries are fulfilled, global
emissions are expected to increase to between 49 GtCO2e
according to the most ambitious pledges and measured
under strict accounting rules; and 53 GtCO2e in 2020
according to the least ambitious pledges and more lenient
accounting rules. Business-as-usual (BAU) emissions in
2020 are estimated to be 56 GtCO2e (ranging from 54 to
60 GtCO2e).

How big is the emissions gap?

The gap would range from 5-9 GtCO2e, depending
on how the pledges were implemented and which
accounting rules would be decided upon within the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Double counting of international emissions offsets could
increase the gap by up to 1.3 GtCO2e and there are no
rules preventing this. As a reference point, if no pledges
were acted on (i.e. BAU conditions), the gap would be 12

What do the pledges suggest about future temperature

The Emissions Gap Report used emissions pathways
from Integrated Assessment Models and calculated
the expected temperatures from those pathways.
Pathways that had the level of emissions expected from
the Copenhagen Accord pledges in 2020 were found
to imply a temperature increase of between 2.5 to 5¡ãC
before the end of the century. The lower bound was the
case in which emissions are fairly stringently controlled
after 2020, and the upper bound was the case in which
emissions were more weakly or not controlled.

How can the gap be minimized and what are the policy
options to do so?

The Emissions Gap Report found that countries can
reduce the gap from 9 to 5 GtCO2e by adopting their
higher ambition pledges (a gain of around 2-3 GtCO2e)
and by the international community agreeing to the more
stringent accounting rules for implementing the pledges
(a gain of 1-2 GtCO2e). That said, a gap of 5 GtCO2e would
still remain.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Amsterdam gets set for a biomass boom

David Badger | Thu, 24 Nov 2011 (IFW)

Port aims to profit as Europe moves towards less-polluting energy sources

The port of Amsterdam is gearing-up for a boom in biomass traffic as a result of an increasing focus on renewable energy and new Dutch government proposals.

Currently, Dutch ports handle 1.5 million tonnes of biomass a year, but as a result of the growing requirement in North European countries, it is expected this will increase to around 13.5 million tonnes by 2020.

Amsterdam handles biomass from source countries including Canada, the US and Brazil, and expects its volumes to reach six million tonnes by 2020.

To meet the expected growth in this sector, the port will allow existing fossil fuel terminals to expand, but will not allow the building of any new ones, as it increases its focus on bio-energy.

And Port of Amsterdam is redeveloping a biomass transhipment and storage terminal in Duisburg.

The MD of the Commercial Department of Port of Amsterdam, Koen Overtoom, said the growth in European biomass demand was largely due to moves by Germany to phase-out its nuclear power stations by 2022, and an increased focus by other European countries on less-polluting energy sources.

But the port also hopes to benefit from proposals recently unveiled in the Dutch government's Energy Report 2011, which include a requirement to make the use of some biomass mandatory at the country's coal-fired energy plants, and for the nation's use of renewable energy to be increased from 4% last year to 14% by 2020.

In anticipation of the new proposal being passed, some coal fired power stations in the south of the country are already blending-in biomass.

Overtoom says it is estimated that by 2020, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK will require 15 million tonnes of biomass a year.

"As a result, the port of Amsterdam will acquire a significant market share in the north-west European market for biomass transhipment," said Overtoom.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stop Land-Grabbing Now!

Stop Land-Grabbing Now!


We, women and men peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and their allies, who gathered together in Nyeleni from 17-19 November 2011, have come from across the world for the first time to share with each other our experiences and struggles against land-grabbing. One year ago we supported the Kolongo Appeal from peasant organizations in Mali, who have taken the lead in organising local resistance to the take-over of peasants' lands in Africa. Now we came to Nyeleni in response to the Dakar Appeal, which calls for a global alliance against land-grabbing. For we are determined to defend food sovereignty, the commons and the rights of small scale food providers to natural resources.

In Mali, the Government has committed to give away 800 thousand hectares of land to business investors. These are lands of communities that have belonged to them for generations, even centuries, while the Malian State has only existed since the 1960-s. This situation is mirrored in many other countries where customary rights are not recognised. Taking away the lands of communities is a violation of both their customary and historical rights.

Secure access to and control over land and natural resources are inextricably linked to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several regional and international human rights treaties, such as the rights to self-determination, an adequate standard of living, housing, food, health, culture, property and participation. We note with grave concern that states are not meeting their obligations in this regard and putting the interests of business interests above the rights of peoples.

Land-grabbing is a global phenomenon led by local, national and transnational elites and investors, and governments with the aim of controlling the world's most precious resources. The global financial, food and climate crises have triggered a rush among investors and wealthy governments to acquire and capture land and natural resources, since these are the only "safe havens" left that guarantee secure financial returns. Pension and other investment funds have become powerful actors in land-grabbing, while wars continue to be waged to seize control over natural wealth. The World Bank and regional development banks are facilitating land and water grabs by promoting corporate-friendly policies and laws, facilitating capital and guarantees for corporate investors, and fostering an extractive, destructive economic development model. The World Bank, IFAD, FAO and UNCTAD have proposed seven principles that legitimise farmland grabbing by corporate and state investors. Led by some of the world's largest transnational corporations, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) aims to transform peasant agriculture into industrial agriculture and integrate smallholder farmers to global value chains, greatly increasing their vulnerability to land-loss.

Land-grabbing goes beyond traditional North-South imperialist structures; transnational corporations can be based in the United States, Europe, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, among others. It is also a crisis in both rural and urban areas. Land is being grabbed in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe for industrial agriculture, forest plantations, mining, infrastructure projects, dams, tourism, conservation parks, industry, urban expansion and military purposes. Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities are being expelled from their territories by armed forces, increasing their vulnerability and in some cases even leading to slavery. Market based, false solutions to climate change are creating more ways to alienate local communities from their lands and natural resources.

Despite the fact that women produce most of the world's food, and are responsible for family and community well being, existing patriarchal structures continue to dispossess women from the lands that they cultivate and their rights to resources. Since most peasant women do not have secure, legally recognised land rights, they are particularly vulnerable to evictions.

The fight against land-grabbing is a fight against capitalism, neoliberalism and a destructive economic model. Through testimonies from our sisters and brothers in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda, we learned how land-grabbing threatens small scale, family based farming, nature, the environment and food sovereignty. Land grabbing displaces and dislocates communities, destroys local economies and the social-cultural fabric, and jeopardizes the identities of communities, be they farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, workers, dalits or indigenous peoples. Those who stand up for their rights are beaten, jailed and killed. There is no way to mitigate the impacts of this economic model and the power structures that promote it. Our lands are not for sale or lease.

But we are not defeated. Through organisation, mobilisation and community cohesiveness, we have been able to stop land-grabbing in many places. Furthermore, our societies are recognising that small-scale, family based agriculture and food production is the most socially, economically and environmentally sustainable model of using resources and ensuring the right to food for all.

Recalling the Dakar Appeal, we reiterate our commitment to resist land-grabbing by all means possible, to support all those who fight land-grabs, and to put pressure on national governments and international institutions to fulfill their obligations to ensure and uphold the rights of peoples. Specifically, we commit to:

Organise rural and urban communities against land-grabs in every form.

Strengthen the capacities of our communities and movements to reclaim and defend our rights, lands and resources.

Win and secure the rights of women in our communities to land and natural resources.

Create public awareness about how land grabbing is creating crises for all society.

Build alliances across different sectors, constituencies, regions, and mobilise our societies to stop land-grabbing

Strengthen our movements to achieve and promote food sovereignty and genuine agrarian reform

In order to meet the above commitments, we will develop the following actions:

On capacity building for organising local resistance

  • Report back to our communities the deliberations and commitments of this Conference.

  • Build our own databases about land-grabbing by documenting cases, and gathering the needed information and evidence about processes, actors, impacts, etc.

  • Ensure that our communities have the information they need about laws, rights, companies, contracts, etc., so that they can resist more effectively the business investors and governments who try to take their lands and natural resources.

  • Set up early warning systems to alert communities to risks and threats.

  • Strengthen our communities through political and technical training, and restore our pride in being food producers and providers particularly among the youth.

  • Secure land and resource rights for women by conscientising our communities and movements about the importance of respecting and protecting women's land rights particularly in customary systems.

  • Develop and use local media to organise members of our and other communities, and share with them information about land-grabbing.

  • Make our leaders abide by the rules set by our communities and compel them to be accountable to us, and our communities and organisations.


On using legal aid for our defense

  • Develop our own systems of legal aid and liaise with legal and human rights experts.

  • Condemn all forms of violence and criminalisation of our struggles and our mobilizations in defense of our rights.

  • Work for the immediate release of all those jailed as a result of their struggles for their lands and territories, and urgently develop campaigns of solidarity with all those facing conflicts.

On advocacy and mobilization

  • Institutionalise April 17 as the day of global mobilisation against land-grabbing; also identify additional appropriate dates that can be used for such mobilisations to defend land and the commons.

  • Develop our political arguments to expose and discredit the economic model that spurs land-grabbing, and the various actors and initiatives that promote and legitimise it.

  • Establish a Peoples' Observatory on land-grabbing to facilitate and centralise data gathering, communications, planning actions, advocacy, research and analysis, etc.

  • Promote women's land rights through targeted re-distribution of land for women, and other actions; make laws and policies responsive to the particular needs of women.

  • Take our messages and demands to parliaments, governments and international institutions. Continue engaging with the Committee on World Food Security and demanding that processes such as the FAO Guidelines on Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forest truly contribute to protect and promote the rights to land and natural resources of small scale food providers.

  • Identify and target local, national and international spaces for actions, mobilizations and building broad-based societal resistance to land-grabbing.

  • Plan actions that target corporations, (including financial corporations), the World Bank and other multilateral development banks that benefit from, drive and promote land and natural resource grabs. Maintain opposition to schemes of corporate self-regulation such as RAI.

  • Expand and strengthen our actions to achieve food sovereignty and agrarian reform, to promote the recognition of customary systems while ensuring the rights of women and to ensure the rights to land and natural resources of the youth.

  • Support peoples' enclosures of their resources through land occupations, occupations of the offices of corporate investors, protests and other actions to reclaim their commons.

  • Demand that our governments fulfill their human rights obligations, immediately stop land and natural resource transfers to business investors, cancel contracts already made, restitute the grabbed lands and protect rural and urban communities from ongoing and future land-grabs.

On alliance building

  • Build strong organisational networks and alliances at various levels--local, regional and international--building on the Dakar Appeal and with small-scale food producers/providers at the centre of these alliances.

  • Build alliances with members of pension schemes in order to prevent pension fund managers from investing in projects that result in land grabbing.

  • Build strategic alliances with press and media, so that they report accurately our messages and realities; counter the prejudices spread by the mainstream media about the land struggles and land reform in Zimbabwe.

We call all organizations committed to these principles and actions to join our Global Alliance against Land-Grabbing, which we solemnly launch today here in Nyeleni.

Globalize the strugle! Globalize hope!

Nyeleni, November 19, 2011

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

UK alerts: No to subsidies for destructive biomass and biofuel electricity

Please click here to take part in two simultaneous email alerts and tell the government and your MP that renewable energy support should go to clean, sustainable real renewables, such as sustainably sited wind, solar and tidal energy, and not to destructive biomass and bioliquid electricity.

The Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change is currently consulting on the level of support to be given from April 2013 to all types of electricity classed as renewable, including from biomass and bioliquids. They propose to continue to support biomass on an unlimited scale – even more than at present as far as co-firing of biomass with coal is concerned.  They also propose  to support the burning of up to 400,000 tonnes of bioliquids per year (on top of the large-scale use of biofuels for transport).  If all this bioliquid were palm oil – a realistic prospect given that this is by far the cheapest vegetable oil – then 110,000 hectares of new oil palm plantations would be needed. Those subsidies mean more deforestation and climate change, more land-grabbing for tree plantations and thus more human rights abuses and more people going hungry.  At the same time, the Government is drastically cutting subsidies for solar PV and are proposing to cut back on subsidies for onshore wind which, according to Friends of the Earth, would harm small-scale and community wind projects.  
Please go to for a link to the alerts and to more background information.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

[biofuelwatch] USEFUL LIST OF RESOURCES Incinerator Health Impacts Studies

THese are health impact studies of emissions from burning everything
from biomass to trash -
> HEALTH EFFECTS OF INCINERATORS (including pyrolysis gasification and
> other forms of staged incineration)
> Second Opinion: The Medical Profession Diagnoses Biomass
> Incineration - Therese Vick - Blue Ridge Environmental Defense
> League 9/6/11
> Biomass Electricity: Clean Energy Subsidies for a Dirty Industry.
> The case for ending taxpayer and rate-payer subsidies that harm
> public health, environment, climate, and forests - Produced by the
> Biomass Accountability Project (Contributors: Margaret Sheehan,
> Esq., Samantha Chirillo, Josh Schlossberg, Dr. William Sammons, Matt
> Leonard, Energy Justice Network) 6/11
> C. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath.: Statement of Evidence,
> Particulate Emissions and Health, Proposed Ringaskiddy Waste-to-
> Energy Facility, June 2009
> Incineration and Links to Cancer - Prevent Cancer Now 1/09
> Health Effects of Incineration: Resource Links - Prevent Cancer Now
> 1/09
> Waste Gasification: Impacts on the Environment and Public Health -
> Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League 2/09
> Incinerators Trash Community Health - Global Alliance for
> Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) 6/08
> The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators: 4th Report of the British
> Society for Ecological Medicine, Second Edition 6/08
> Incineration of Municipal Solid Waste: An Update on Pollution -
> Pembina Institute in collaboration with the David Suzuki Foundation,
> Sierra Legal, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Canadian Environmental
> Law Association and Great Lakes United 5/07
> ISDE Waste Incinerator Resolution - Association of Doctors for the
> Environment, ISDE Italy (Affiliate of the International Society of
> Doctors for the Environment) 9/09
> Irish Doctors Environmental Association: Incinerators and their
> Health Effects 6/15/06
> No Incentives for Incinerators Statement - Global Alliance for
> Incinerator Alternatives and other organizations 2007
> C. Vyvyan Howard MB. ChB. PhD. FRCPath.: Statement of Evidence,
> Particulate Emissions and Health, Proposed Ringaskiddy Waste-to-
> Energy Facility, June 2009
> The Deadliest Air Pollution Isn't Being Regulated or Even Measured -
> Peter Montague - Rachel's Democracy & Health News #915 7/12/07
> Incineration Fact Sheet - Zero Waste 4 Zero Burning
> [see Sections 1 - 4, especially 4. The following is the text from
> #4: "The Paris Appeal is an international scientific declaration on
> chemical pollution proclaimed in 2004. It was signed by over a
> thousand international scientists and by all the medical governing
> bodies and representative medical organizations in the EU gathered
> in the Standing Committee of European Doctors which represents two
> million European doctors. In 2006, 68 international health and
> science experts drew up the Memorandum of the Paris Appeal that
> included a call for a ban on the building of any new incinerators.
> In June 2008, over 33,000 doctors in the EU and worldwide sent an
> open letter to the European Parliament with their concerns regarding
> the health effects from incinerators and that ultra-fine particulate
> emissions are still not monitored in Europe. They are likewise not
> monitored or controlled in Canada."
> Nanoparticles - No Incinerators (Dublin) [An Objection filed on the
> basis of "the failure of this license and of the studies at its
> basis to consider the toxicity and potentially lethal effects of the
> nanoparticles, generated by the incineration process, on human
> health"]
> Nanopathology: The Role of Micro and Nanoparticles in Biomaterial-
> Induced Pathology - Antonietta M Gatti and colleagues - A RTD
> project funded by the European Commission 2007
> You can also download /*Incinerators Trash Community Health*/ (June
> 2008) on our publications page:
> Ananda
>> Here's a great report from Greenpeace on this summarizing studies.
>> It
>> was done 10 years ago but still applicable.
>> Mike Schade, /PVC Campaign Coordinator/

Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch/Energy Justice Network
802.482.2848 (o)
802.735 7794 (m)
skype: Rachel Smolker

respect existence or expect resistance


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The new trend of biomass plantations in Brazil: tree monocultures

From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin November 2011,

The new trend of biomass plantations in Brazil: tree monocultures

A new expansion cycle: carbon and biomass plantations

Within the context of Brazil's efforts to be a global economic power, a report was brought out by the Secretary of Strategic Affairs of the new government, under president Dilma Rousseff, which the Brazilian media got access in March this year. It announced that the new governmental policy is to more than double the tree plantation area in Brazil to 15 million hectares, increasing Brazil's market share from US$ 7 billion to US$ 25 billion. While the first expansion cycle aimed especially at pulp and paper production, this time the government aims to expand plantations for different purposes. The pressing issue is that billions of subsidies are needed to achieve this aim, more than the government itself is willing to contribute.

In this sense, the international focus on the climate crisis came as a very welcome alternative angle for the corporative sector and the government to use to open the door to new subsidies, especially for `renewable' carbon plantations, with doubtful climate benefits. For example, the Plantar company in the state of Minas Gerais has been a pioneer in offering carbon credits through a CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) project based on renewable eucalyptus tree plantations, ironically destined to be burnt again, emitting back into the atmosphere all the CO2 that was stored. The resulting charcoal is the energy source for Plantar's pig iron industry.

Another example is the efforts of companies like Fibria and Suzano Papel e Celulose to sell carbon credits from the carbon stored in its plantations on the voluntary carbon market through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a stock exchange to commercialise carbon credits, founded in 2003. Once again, this mechanism is about a temporary carbon storage, not a permanent one, which is what is needed to combat the climate crisis. Another way that the Brazilian government has attempted to get subsidies is to get a new instrument improved at UNFCCC level called `forests in exhaustion'. This instrument would guarantee that the older tree plantations receive money from the carbon market to guarantee the replanting of these plantations.

One of the latest developments is the plan to implement large-scale eucalyptus tree monoculture plantations for biomass wood production in the Northeast of Brazil by the company Suzano Papel e Celulose. Suzano is a private company that has been operating for 85 years. It is the second largest eucalyptus wood pulp producer in the world , with five pulp mills in Brazil, located in the states of São Paulo and Bahia, which produced 2.7 million tons of pulp and paper in 2008. Nowadays it controls 722 thousand hectares of land with 324 thousand hectares of eucalyptus plantations, in the states of Bahia, São Paulo, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Tocantins and Maranhão. Suzanohas ambitious plans to increase its pulp and paper production to 7.2 million tons with three new industrial complexes: one in each of the Northeastern states of Maranhão and Piauí, and a third one that still has not been decided on.

Suzano's biomass plantations

Suzano also has even more ambitious plans: to invest in a new type of plantation - biomass plantations. In order to achieve this plan, in mid-2010 the Suzano Group created a new company called Suzano Energia Renvovável (Suzano Renewable Energy). The proposed investment amounts to US$ 1.3 billion, and includes five wood pallet production units, with a total production capacity of 5 million tons of biomass fuel. The first phase includes land acquisitions and the construction of three wood pallet production units, producing 1 million tons each, which would start operating in 2013. Suzano expects a liquid income of US$ 500 million in 2014, and already has guaranteed sales contracts for 2.7 million tons. A non-binding 'memory of understanding' was signed between Suzano and the UK company MGT Power Ltd. in August 2010.

No public information is available about where exactly the biomass plantations will be located in the Northeast of Brazil and how many hectares will be necessary, however, field trials with eucalyptus and acacia were carried out in Piauí and Maranhão in 2009. The company's director, André Dorf, declared in 2010: "the lands have already been prospected and the acquisition process must take place still this year", stressing also that the Northeast "(...) has our preference because of the proximity of important ports which facilitates the flow of the production, once our aim is supplying the European continent".

Biomass plantations are very different from wood pulp plantations. The rotation cycle is two to three years instead of the seven years that is normally used, and the trees will be planted more densely. Different from wood pulp and paper production, which aims for a maximum of cellulose (to be transformed into pulp) and a minimum of lignin (the `glue' of the tree), the plantations for `energetic' purposes aim for a maximum of lignin. According to the director André Dorf, around 30 thousand hectares are necessary for producing 1 million tons of wood pellets. Considering the aim of Suzano to produce 5 million tons of wood pellets, a total of 150 thousand hectares of land is therefore needed.

Problems are already happening in the Northeast of Brazil with Suzano's land acquisitions for eucalyptus plantations for pulp production. This is a region where, for example, traditional quilombola communities still struggle to get the rights over their traditional territories recognised. Inaldo Serejo, coordinator from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) in Maranhão, affirms in an interview that "there is an expansion going on in Maranhão, for example, of companies like Suzano Papel e Celulose that has been buying immense land areas, occupied by traditional communities, to plant eucalyptus". Therefore, an increase in problems can be expected with the further expansion of new biomass plantations.

Resistance to biomass monoculture in Brazil

The Movement of Small Peasants (MPA), one of the major rural peasants' movements in the Northeast of Brazil, and members of Via Campesina Brazil have been struggling for years against tree monoculture expansion in Brazil, through demonstrations and other protest actions. Raul Krauser from the national coordination of the MPA explains the reasons of their resistance struggle: "We already have bitterly accumulated a list of impacts on the lives of peasants from eucalyptus monoculture expansion: acquisition of big unproductive farms that should be destined to agrarian land reform; rise in land prices in the whole region; the companies are fencing the peasant communities and put pressure on them to sell their lands; families get scared of staying isolated in a plantation area and because of the persecution of the companies, together with local elites, they sell their lands; local economies go worse, increase in hunger, violence and social degradation; organisations that oppose to this expansion are criminalised by the companies and by the `Brazilian state' that gives subsidies, fiscal incentives, economical, military, juridical and also moral support, creating an image that who is against these mega-projects is against development. Considering the fragility of the caatinga biome, the previews of climate change in the region, (..), the impacts in the Northeast will be undoubtedly much worse and the proportions of the disaster much bigger than we have seen in other regions of the country. There is a tendency that peasant communities will be destroyed, what will immediately mean a decrease in food production, threatening the local food supply, therefore the society as a whole will be affected."

Krauser continues affirming that: "We are strongly against this expansion, once if the burning of wood is considered less polluting, the production of the wood is highly dangerous and bad for the life of peasants and other communities, bad for the development of the country. We have enough cases that prove sufficiently that where tree monocultures enter, also hunger, misery, social inequalities increase. So-called sustainable development does not go together with tree monocultures in tropical countries. What the companies tell is not more than an illusion."

According to the latest information from the Suzano website, it is stated in the report of the first trimester of 2011 that "The company is evaluating alternatives for structuring of capital for Suzano Energia Renóvavel", a sign that the company has still not found enough financial support to fully implement the project.

Final remarks on the implications of biomass monoculture

As the Brazilian experience with industrial tree monocultures shows, there is a huge potential for conflicts wherever this model is expanded. In the case of the Northeast, major concerns are the direct and indirect expelling of local peasant populations by up to 150 thousand hectares of plantations and, besides, the loss of water resources through the fast-growing plantations. As a matter of fact, these would probably be the first commercial plantations with such a short rotation cycle in Brazil and worldwide. And all this in a region, the Northeast of Brazil, traditionally affected by heavy drought periods.

This example shows, once again, that the only way to start solving the global climate crisis is by drastically cutting carbon emissions in the North. Implementing large-scale monoculture tree plantations within a conventional agricultural model, and transporting wood pallets over the ocean for power stations in the UK, is just another false solution, whilst simultaneously creating new problems for local communities in the Northeast of Brazil.

Article adapted from original article with the same title, written by Winnie Overbeek and published on-line by Corporate Watch (

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The case of Vattenfall – African timber to save the climate in Germany?

From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin November 2011,

Liberia: The case of Vattenfall – African timber to save the climate in Germany?

The Swedish state-owned multinational Vattenfall is Europe's fifth largest energy producer. Its affiliate Vattenfall Europe, based in Berlin, is one of the four biggest companies in the German energy market. Vattenfall's energy production there is primarily fuelled by coal (65%) – it has its own lignite mines in east Germany – and uranium (26%). But the company has also branched out into the use of supposedly "clean" energy sources, like wood. According to its website, Vattenfall has more than 40 heat and power plants in Europe fuelled in full or in part by biomass, and calls itself "one of the world's leading companies in the sector." (1) It consumes more than three million tons of biomass annually, of which 60% consists of domestic and industrial waste, and 30% consists of by-products from the forest industry.

For years, Vattenfall has been considered one of the "black sheep" of the German energy market, because of its high consumption of coal and the exploitation of its lignite mines, as well as its nuclear plants and the frequent accidents that occur there. It has been the target of repeated protests by citizens and environmental NGOs, as was the case when it planned to build a new coal-fired power plant in Berlin. On that occasion, the company changed its plans and announced in March 2009 that it would instead build two biomass electric power plants and two natural gas power plants. The Senate of Berlin and the environmental community were pleased with the decision and congratulated the company.(2)

On October 8, 2009, Vattenfall Europe and the Senate of Berlin signed a Climate Protection Agreement aimed at a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions in Berlin by 2020. (3) Biomass plays a key role in this strategy, by helping the city to fulfil its commitments to protecting the climate, at least on paper. The company will build one of the biggest biomass power plants in Europe in Berlin, with a total capacity of 190 megawatts (MW), in addition to a smaller plant (32 MW) and co-firing (260 MW) in four already existing coal-fuelled plants that are also included in the project.

Over the following months, more details about the plans slowly leaked out to the public and the first doubts were raised about how the necessary biomass would be sourced. In May 2010 Vattenfall stated that its plants in Berlin would require 1.3 million tons of woody biomass annually, more than three times the amount initially announced (400,000 tons a year). Since then it has become fully obvious that it is impossible to obtain all of this biomass in the region.

In Berlin and the federal state of Brandenburg, which surrounds the city, there are already 42 biomass power plants, which combined with the timber and pulp and paper industries consume practically all of the woody biomass available. Vattenfall claims that it will primarily use wood waste products such as Christmas trees, the residues from pruning trees in urban parks, etc. In addition, it has suggested the establishment of plantations of fast-growing trees, and has identified some 300,000 hectares around Berlin for potential use for this purpose. It should be mentioned that south of the city there are already vast industrial monoculture pine plantations, incorrectly classified as forests.

However, in late February 2010, the media reported on an agreement signed by Vattenfall with Buchanan Renewables in Liberia to purchase and import a million tons of rubber tree wood chips from this African country. (4) On June 9, 2010, the German NGO Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald) launched a protest action on its German-language website, which was signed by 21,433 people. (5) But one week later, Vattenfall AB of Stockholm announced that it had acquired a 20% share in Buchanan Renewables for 20 million euro, while the Swedish state-owned investment company Swedfund had acquired an additional 10% share. (6)

In the following months, an ever growing number of voices spoke out in criticism. Beginning in the autumn of 2010, the NGO Powershift organized public hearings and distributed a video about the Vattenfall project in Liberia. (7) Vattenfall and the Senate of Berlin contracted the consulting firm IFEU and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to assess the possibilities of certifying the project under different "green labels". The resulting study confirmed numerous problems, limitations and conflicts. (8) Nevertheless, it reached the conclusion that certification was possible under the FSC, ISCC, PEFC and RSB schemes.

On April 15, 2011, Vattenfall Europe and the Senate of Berlin signed an "Agreement on Sustainability in Biomass Sourcing".(9) The document is a smokescreen. It contains no concrete data or measures defining how this alleged "sustainability" will be ensured. Vattenfall and its partners claim that two thirds of the rubber trees in Liberia are old and unproductive and must be replaced. Harvesting this timber would generate income for the population and hard currency revenues for the country. And in spite of having to transport this biomass 6,000 kilometres from Liberia to Germany, it would supposedly continue to contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Buchanan Renewables was founded in 2008 by North American investors, among them Canadian billionaire John McCall MacBain. Initially, the company harvested trees from the smallholdings of peasant farmers. Many of them had planted rubber trees along the borders of their farms to demarcate their landholdings: a common practice in a country where few people hold title deeds to their properties. The company's harvesting of trees gave rise to numerous problems and discontent among the local population. The business was conducted primarily on the basis of rather unclear verbal agreements, and conflicts arose over arbitrariness in terms of the species and volume of trees harvested, destruction of neighbouring fields of crops, lack of payment, etc.

Negotiating with hundreds of individual small farmers – each one of them the owner of a small number of harvestable trees – is not an easy task, and would make it difficult to acquire the large volume of timber planned for. This led Buchanan Renewables to begin mechanized harvesting on the industrial rubber tree plantations of the Japanese-US multinational Bridgestone/Firestone, near Kakata, where Bridgestone/Firestone manages the largest rubber tree plantation in the world.

The situation in Liberia

After years of dictatorship and two civil wars, Liberia is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. The economy is largely dependent on the export of iron ore, rubber and timber. There are approximately 260,000 hectares of industrial rubber tree plantations in the country. Local NGOs like SAMFU (10) and UN reports (11) Describe disastrous working and social conditions on the plantations, especially those run by Bridgestone/Firestone. There are charges of, among other abuses, child labour, violence and a general absence of legality. In addition, around 200,000 hectares of rainforest are logged every year.

The primary energy source for families in Liberia is woody biomass, in the form of firewood and charcoal. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 99.5% of households cook with firewood. The rainforests, mangroves and old rubber trees are the main sources. The supply is basically met by thousands of informal firewood collectors and small-scale sellers. Local activists report that in the last two years there has been a sharp rise in the prices of firewood and charcoal.

The Ministry of Energy of Liberia stated in its 2007 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy and Action Plan (12) that "scarcity of firewood is becoming a serious problem in most parts of Liberia, especially in Montserrado County [around the capital, Monrovia]. Nationally, Liberia is harvesting well above the level that can be sustained annually without depleting the current stock and degrading the environment. (…) The use of woody biomass as a source of energy will increase in relation to rural population growth and poverty. If this demand is not met in a sustainable manner, it will eventually lead to deforestation, environmental degradation and probably desertification in Liberia."

The supply of electric power is almost non-existent in Liberia. Those who have the means to do so rely on their own small gasoil-powered generators, an inefficient and highly polluting way to produce electricity. However, there are government plans to reconstruct the electric power grid. In January 2009, Buchanan Renewables was awarded the concession to build and manage a 34 MW biomass-fired power plant to supply electric power to the capital, Monrovia. (13) According to the concession contract, the estimated capital cost of the project was 149 million dollars. The biomass to be used for the project was wood from old rubber trees. Nevertheless, almost three years later, construction work has yet to begin, and Liberia remains without electricity. On the other hand, since 2009, Buchanan Renewables has begun to export rubber tree wood chips to Europe.

The Vattenfall project in Liberia is the first of this kind in Germany, but it is setting off all the alarms. The large-scale use of biomass can hardly be met by local sources, and this directly leads to global markets and large industrial plantations. The massive expansion of biomass use further diminishes the possibility of implementing truly sustainable solutions, such as energy saving and efficiency. Instead, the pretext of the energy crisis and climate change are being used to allow corporations to gain greater control over land, water, biodiversity, agriculture… and life.

Klaus Schenck, Rainforest Rescue, email:

You can take part in weekly protest actions on cases like these by email. Find out more by visiting


(10) SAMFU, 2008: The heavy load – A demand for fundamental changes on the Bridgestone/Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia,

(11) UN Mission in Liberia, 2006: Human Rights in Liberia's Rubber Plantations: Tapping into the Future.
(12) Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, June 2007: Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy and Action Plan, Monrovia, Liberia, pp. 3-4,

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