In a report leaked to The East African newspaper last week, Envirocare, an environmental and human rights organization, highlighted the impact of the jatropha trade in Tanzania — including concerns over the displacement of farmers, water consumption, and the substitution of food crops for biofuels.Jatropha producers are naturally not thrilled with the report’s findings:
Mr. Ruud Van Eck, the chief executive of Diligent Energy Systems, a Dutch jatropha developer working in Tanzania, is among business executives who have contested the findings on the water footprint of jatropha.That jatropha is a water-hog is old news. Perhaps less-discussed is that, while part of jatropha’s appeal was that it can be grown on marginal land, it will compete with food crops for prime cropland too, if fuel prices are high enough.
Mr. Van Eck also stated that for jatropha to be sustainable, it should not be grown in places with high rainfall, which can be used to grow food crops.
Update: The aforementioned report has caused waves in short order:
Reacting to mounting pressure from farmers and environmental groups citing concerns over food shortages, the Tanzanian government has reportedly suspended all biofuel investments in the country and halted land allocations for biofuel development.This may hurt businesses and investors currently in biofuels in Tanzania, since setting up “clear procedures” could take a while, but of the country’s overall welfare this is probably a good thing.
“The government was asleep,” Esther Mfugale, the coordinator of biofuel production for Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, was quoted as saying in an interview with The East African newspaper. “We have to stop and set out clear procedures for biofuel investments.”