Jatropha: Exposing the New Threats to Africa's Agriculture
Friends of the Earth Ghana held an event on May 28, 2009, condemning the procurement of African lands by foreign companies for the production of the 'wonder crop' Jatropha.
At the recent Jatropha World Summit in Ghana government ministers and big business promoted the large scale export and production of the crop in the capital's La Palm Beach Hotel. Meanwhile in rather less salubrious surroundings a one day side event shone a critical light on the so called miracle crop.
The side event held by Friends of the Earth Ghana was called 'Jatropha: Exposing the New Threats to Africa's Agriculture' and focused on debunking the myth of Jatropha as a miracle crop as well as condemning the idea that Africa has large chunks of wasteland waiting for someone to put them to use.
Jatropha is being pushed as one of the new miracle crops for African small farmers to produce fuel and dig themselves out of poverty. The reality is that agrofuel developments are firmly controlled by Northern companies which are taking over land at an incredible pace, and are bringing about serious socio-economic and environmental impacts on our communities, food security, forests and water resources.
The side event was attended by representatives of Friends of the Earth groups from Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, as well as consumer groups, Ghanaian NGOs and the media. Participants discussed their frustration at the acquisition of African land by foreign companies and raised the question of who decides what is marginal land and what is not.
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, told the participants that he hoped the summit would cause business tycoons and government officials meeting in Accra to stop and think about their actions.
"Africa is being so severely challenged and is routinely characterised as the sick continent of the world," he says, "it is a challenge to the peoples of Africa to rise up and resist any move that will severely impact our ability to meet our food needs, further add problems to the land tenure difficulties and further project the continent as a land that is good only for exploitation."
"The time has come for Africa to focus on renewable energy and strive for energy sovereignty," Nnimmo says.
- Find out more about Jatropha
- Read Friends of the Earth's report on Jatropha in Swaziland