From the Nairobi capital, we head to the landscape of another planet, inhabited by the last descendants of the legendary and now dying “Man’s Cradle.” Here the ecosystem has allowed ancestral tribes to live for centuries in the arid suburbs of the lake’s shore, considered one of the most hostile environments on Earth. The same tribes are now facing extinction. They are among the most vulnerable victims of famine which is destroying the Horn of Africa.
In Africa grow crops for energy purposes. Felisa, the Belgian start-up, is the first to invest in Africa in the production of biodiesel from palma oil. But all this involves also other Western investors and it increasingly takes on the forms of a new colonization. However it goes, as always, at the expense of local people, who risk their exclusion from their lands. How to take advantage of the promising growth of agro-energy while protecting the interests of local communities?
Liquid fuel from plants – like bioethanol – is considered by some as a possible ecological substitute for fossil fuel. And this is clear to the countries of the western world, and in particular to England. These are crops that are subject to controversy, as they risk replacing foodstuffs by exorbitantly increasing the price of food and hunger. Not to mention the problem of expropriation of land.
Bioshape, a green energy company based in Neer, Netherlands, is currently involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Among Bioshape’s projects, it is to hire thousands of local laborers and export seeds from Tanzania to the Netherlands, where they would be worked for the production of electricity, heat and biofuels. A big wound to the green polo of the world by the hand of a project that was intended to produce clean energy.
What is the real weight of the biofuel revolution? Kenya and Ethiopia have sold 700,000 hectares of land to foreign investors: fuel fuels represent a development opportunity or a new form of colonialism? Running crops for fuel production led to a sharp rise in cereal prices during the food crisis in 2008, triggering a bias between NGOs and those waving on clean energy. A FAO research shows that the sedentary “miracle of plantations” could be less miraculous than investors.
An investigation to find out the price of EU green policies in favor of low-grade CO₂ blends. Imagine Switzerland entirely covered with plantations to fuel cars and power plants: it is the correspondent of the land today exploited by Westerners in Africa to produce biofuels. Are we sure that this ambitious sustainable energy project is equally sustainable for African rural communities?
Against climate warming and oil prices, the Kyoto Protocol bets on biofuels. And if the announced green revolution assumed the size of a new colonization? The Italian company Tozzi Renewable Energy (TRE Spa) is positioned on the African chess board, pending a new climate change agreement that could multiply cash flows to the green gold sector. But in danger, they are not just the fair pay of local peasants, but even ecosystems and food security.
And if you were told that you could fight climate change with a purchase on eBay? Clean Air Action Corporation, an American company set up an online store selling carbon credits. The money supposedly goes to indigenous peasants in Tanzania to persuade them to plant new trees that absorb C02. But locals no longer believe in the project. Exploited, they have stopped growing the trees, making more money through cutting them to resell the wood.