nigeria: challenging agrofuels in west africa
"The use of lands in Africa as testing grounds for crops to feed machines instead of man, will rob farmers of land and will worsen the already precarious hunger situation on the continent. The only solution to hunger is for African governments to initiate and implement policies that guarantees protection for farmers to enhance pro-poor food production.” Said Nnimmo Bassey, from FoE Nigeria.
In Nigeria, this assault on staple foods is being promoted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). There are plans to build ethanol production plants across the country, and operators will be exempt from duties and taxes on agrofuel imports and exports.
First, Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action investigated the on-the-ground impacts of agrofuels production in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. This was no easy task, since government officials were reluctant or refused to disclose relevant information, and communities and agrofuels plantations were often in remote areas.
FoE Nigeria’s campaigners improved their knowledge about agofuels expansion and its real-life consequences. They observed that large-scale agrofuels cultivation in the region is already leading to the clearing of trees, destruction of ecosystems and radical changes in agriculture (which will impact food prices). The communities contacted also learned about the governments’ intention to convert further large tracts of arable land to fuel crops cultivation.
Then a lively regional convention on agrofuels was held in Abuja, Nigeria, entitled ‘Food is for People not Machines’. This revealed shared concerns about the impact that agrofuels cultivation could have on food sovereignty, the availability of safe and heathy food, and farmers’ rights to secure and sustainable livelihoods free of the threat of genetic contamination. These concerns were clearly shared by some of the government officials present, including a senator who subsequently requested more information and materials to aid decision-making.
The conference was reported by a wide range of media, reaching an audience of over 60 million people in West Africa, and inspired new alliances and networks committed to stemming the tide of agrofuels.
The potential benefits claimed by those in favour of agrofuels are a myth that could imperil the African continent. The real beneficiaries are corporate interests and developed nations that strive to protect their own environment. Yet there is a vast information gap that still needs to be breached: a significant number of people, in Africa and in importing countries, remain unaware of the impacts of agrofuels.
Biofuels policy development in various African countries needs be opened up for public scrutiny and debate. In Nigeria, for example, there are plans to engage the government of Ekiti State in a learning encounter, to start to lift the ignorance underpinning government decision-making. A documentary of the Abuja conference will also be published and broadcast.
- A report entitled “Corporate Push of Agrofuels in Africa” outlines the results.
with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)