Guessing that most readers of this blog don't pick up the Guatemala Times(!), I wanted to share a great article they published on the challenge of increasing energy access for the world’s poor. It highlights the case of villagers in Kisarawe, Tanzania, who were 'were left with nothing' when their land was grabbed for a biofuels plantation by a company that then went bust.
ActionAid works closely with this community and is supporting them to demand compensation for their land from the new owners, Lion's Head Global Partners.
The dark side of biofuels
As the article explains, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is spearheading a drive to make sure that the world's poor get increased access to sustainable and clean energy. While it's vital that everyone has access to energy in order to reduce poverty, the article points out how energy sources such as biofuels often have a 'dark side' with harsh consequences for the 'casualties'.
The article talks about the case of villagers in Tanzania’s Kisarawe district whose lives were devastated when the equivalent of 11,000 football pitches of land were seized to grow biofuels. Their case illustrates all too well the devastating effects of biofuels on local communities – they lost their land and with it their livelihoods, as well as access to wells and ancestral graves, with little or no compensation, the promised investment in terms of clinics, schools and roads failed to materialise and whilst the plantation looks to remain shut, there is little hope of jobs.
Lion's Head Global Partners and Kisarawe
ActionAid has met with Christopher Egerton-Warburton and other representatives from the new owners Lion’s Head Global Partners several times and have asked them to take action over the communities’ demands. We’ve recently heard that, finally, the community have been granted access to their wells and graves.
This is great news but too little and too late. It doesn’t change the fact that when the community had their land grabbed, they lost their main source of livelihood and have still not benefitted from any of the promised investments. And these impacts are not confined to Kisarawe. The article also gives details of the land grab deals recently released by the Land Matrix Project which reveals the extent of land deals covering over 200 million hectares of land, including 56.2 million to grow biofuels and agricultural produce for export in Africa.
And Guatemala itself, where the article was published, is another country already experiencing the harsh impacts of biofuels. Rosa Xol Pá in Northern Guatemala fears for the future of her community after much of their land has been taken over by plantations to produce palm oil, increasingly used as a biofuel to power cars in Europe. One of the worst ironies is that biofuels rarely help address the energy needs in the countries where they’re grown. After the needs of rich countries, driven by government targets, are met, there is little left for local use.
Help end of government’s support for biofuels and their devastating impact on communities such as those on Kisarawe by signing the petition