Video stories: the biofuel land grab in Kisarawe, Tanzania

28 October 2011

In 2006, Sun Biofuels arrived in Kisarawe District and took land the size of 11,000 football pitches to establish a jatropha plantation - a crop that is grown for biofuels. 13-year-old Mariam tells how her dreams for the future were destroyed when Sun biofuels broke their promises.


New wells, clinics, schools and roads were also pledged, but nothing has been built. Mariam's mother Halima Ali describes the promises that were made, and how little has been achieved.

People are no longer allowed onto the land, so they are unable to access the nearest water sources or even the graves of family members. 89-year old Seleman Pazi has lost access to the land where his parents, his grandfather and his great-grandfather are buried.  ActionAid is urgently working with the new owner of Sun Biofuels to resolve this issue.

Villagers have also lost much of the land they relied upon to earn a living. Without this income, many parents like Amina Ali can no longer afford to feed their children three meals a day or pay school fees.


There was no negotiation on the amount of compensation that villagers would receive for their land, and only those who have really pushed for it have received any money at all. Village teacher Ramadhani Athumani shows us the letters the villagers have written, campaigning to get compensation for the land.

Promoters of biofuels say that they bring rural development to poor countries. But chairman of Mhaga village, Athumani Mkambala, has had to watch his community’s standard of living plummet since the arrival of Sun Biofuels.


Many villagers also spoke of their worries for future generations. Without land to inherit or a secure income, grandmother Halima Weli wonders what the future holds for her children and grandchildren.


Poor Tanzanians have been tricked into giving up their land to a biofuels company and are now even worse off than before. This case shows yet again how biofuel crops can ruin poor people’s livelihoods in the communities where they are grown as well as driving up food prices. A billion people already don’t have enough to eat. Biofuel use could add hundreds of millions more.

Moreover, biofuels don’t even provide environmental benefits, as many have higher greenhouse gas emissions than the fossil fuels they are designed to replace.

The great biofuels land-grab is only happening because of subsidies from European countries. You can do something about it.