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2009 March 04

Biofuel is good for Africa’s farmers

jatropha plants
Increased demand for biofuels is a positive development for Africa’s farmers. Farmers have been getting paid less and less for their products, but now prices for farm products are on the rise, and farmers’ incomes are rising with them.

The production of biofuels and investment in ethanol and biodiesel production is creating new job opportunities, advancing technological developments, and reducing oil dependency all at the same time, according to a report from the Swedish Cooperative Centre (Kooperation Utan Gränser).

There has been a lot of information in the media in recent months about how the push into biofuels may lead to competition for natural resources and food shortages in developing countries. But the Centre’s report gives a completely different perspective. The Swedish Cooperative Centre asked a number of representatives from Africa’s farm industry, and they have a positive attitude toward energy crops.

“Everything that can raise the price of farm products means more money in farmers’ pockets and it appears as if biofuels can do that,” said Ishmael Sunga from SACAU, an organisation

better prices lead to increased investments and increased production, both of food and bioenergy crops. This may break a trend which has resulted in Africa’s farmers getting less and less money for their production over the last 20 years. For example, after years of suffering from falling sugar prices, African farmers are finally seeing prices head up due to increased demand for sugar cane ethanol, which in turn makes it more profitable to grow the crop.