18 March 2010

Ghana: Massive Jatropha Farming Threatens Food Security

A study conducted by Action Aid Ghana (AAG) and FoodSPAN in four regions in Ghana has revealed that the production of biofuel is fast affecting food crop farmers in the regions.

The study indicated that due to unavailability of comprehensive policy on biofuel production in the country, its production was having adverse effect on food security, environment, human rights and in general, livelihoods of the affected communities.

The study, which was conducted in the last quarter of last year (2009) covered 12 communities namely; Bredi Camp, Myomoase, Fawoman (all in the Brong Ahafo Region), Dukusen and Afrisre (in the Ashanti Region) and Agomeda in Greater Accra.

The rest include; Adidome, Tordzino, Lolito, Dedukorpe (in the Volta region) and Gomoa Adenten and Baifikrom in the Central region.

According to the report, what was worse was that in most cases the companies involved in the production of the biofuel import labour from outside the communities where production sites were located, and "there were drastic lay-offs as the project progressed from land preparation and planting stages."

It observed that the companies were undertaking large scale plantation farms of maily jatropha production with the smallest farm covering about 75 acres.

The companies engaged in jatropha production were Kimminic Estates Ltd. in the Brong Ahafo Region, Scanfuel Limited in Ashanti Region and Afram Basin and Gold Star Bio-Diesel Farm Limited in the Volta and Central Regions.

"Generally, fertile arable lands suitable for crop production were being used for jatropha production except in the Volta region. Biofuel production projects were characterized by extensive use of weedicides, example Sunphosate with possible pollution of water bodies," it stressed.

It observed that the large scale production also involved the use of heavy machinery resulting in wanton destruction of forest, vegetative cover, biodiversity and economic trees including dawadawa and shea-tress, citing Dukusen in the Afram Basin as a clear example.

In Bredi Camp, a farmer named Mageed bemoaned that his life and that of other community members have been adversely affected as they no longer have land to produce maize, cassava and yam, adding that they were neither consulted by the Omanhene of the area nor the biofuel company before they took over the land, and that they have not been compensated for the displacement.

However, the report recommended for an urgent need for the government and all other stakeholders to discuss the issue of land grabbing for biofuel production objectively and come up with policies that would spell out modalities for biofuel production in the country since food insecurity, destruction of biodiversity and violation of human rights were imminent if not properly handled.

The Project Officer of General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Mr. Joseph Owusu Osei told The Chronicle in an interview that due to the energy crisis the world over, there is a shift to bioproduction, hence countries like Russia, the US and China have moved to Ghana to acquire large tracts of lands in the country.

He said the activities of the multinational companies have left a lot to be desired.

He noted that they would present a policy paper to the Parliamentary select committee on Food and Agriculture on March 25th 2010 on what steps to take to combat the situation.

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