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Biofuels expansion in Africa may impact rainforests, wetlands

Biofuels expansion in Africa may impact rainforests, wetlands

Biofuels expansion in Africa may impact rainforests, wetlands
May 28, 2008

Biofuel feedstock expansion in Africa will likely come at the expense of ecologically-sensitive lands, reports a new analysis presented by Wetlands International at the Convention of Biological Diversity in Bonn.

The study, titled Biofuel production in Africa, suggests that complex land rights coupled with limited availability of prime agricultural lands in Africa will likely drive biofuel development into rainforests and wetlands resulting in degradation of important ecosystem services. Further, the reports warns, biofuel production may consume large quantities of water, cause erosion and increase demand for fertilizer and pesticides.

Still Wetlands International says that biofuel production can benefit Africa: shifting fuel demands away from fossil fuels towards ethanol and biodiesel could provide “better energy security, improved trade balance and create added value” as well as stimulate employment. The report argues that certification schemes for biofuels produced in environmentally and socially responsible ways could provide key incentives for the continent.

“Biofuel production can have positive socio-economic effects on the population of African wetlands, provided that production is carefully managed by governments and companies and monitored by certification schemes and non-governmental organizations,” the report states. “Careful management of biofuel feedstock expansion is essential. Several conditions, such as effective land use planning, comprehensive biofuel policies, accountability mechanisms for producers, raising awareness, and sound agricultural management practices can help to mitigate the risks and promote the benefits.”

Biofuel production in Africa

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A UN economist is touting the potential of DR Congo for industrial biofuels production, reports Reuters. In a telephone interview, Dr Schmidhuber said the worn-torn country could devote millions of acres for oil palm, soy, and other biofuel feedstocks.

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