Foreign investment increasing food security in Africa
Recent research indicates that bioenergy production has great potential to increase food security, increase land investment and infrastructure and unlock Africa’s latent potential to become the next big player on the global stage."If approached with the proper policies and processes, and with the inclusion of all the various stakeholders, bioenergy is not only compatible with food production, it can greatly benefit agriculture in Africa," said Rocio Diaz-Chavez, lead author of the report titled Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Imperial College London, and Camco International.
Bioenergy production is not only compatible with food production, but could greatly benefit agriculture in Africa through increased foreign investment leading to improved infrastructure. Biomass crops can be produced for bioenergy on a significant scale in West, East and Southern Africa, without affecting food production or natural habitats.
The global expansion of the biofuels industry has been fuelled by capital raised on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange. This has spurred countries such as Italy, Germany, France, the US, Brazil and China to acquire land in Africa for biofuels production. From the UK alone, more than 11 companies have been linked to biofuels investments in African nations from Mozambique to Senegal.
Investors in renewables are poised to reap the benefits, as evidenced by a United Nations report showing investment in renewable energy increased by 32% in 2010. The report disclosed that developing nations spent US$72 billion more than developed nations, which spent US$70 billion on investments in renewable energy over the same period.
Private investment company Insight Group PLC has successfully established two large biofuel investments in Africa, with the latest project, BIO E-GRASS™, located in Gambia tipped to be the highest yielding biomass project on the investment market today. The project will produce 500 hectares of Miscanthus Giganteus, a large C4 perennial grass. Research conducted in the US and the UK has established that Miscanthus Giganteus produces 2 ½ times the ethanol of corn and yields 2-4 times more dried tonnes than switchgrass and can be successfully grown on land unsuitable for food crops.
In the article A New Hope for Africa, Lee R. Lynd, a professor of environmental engineering design at Dartmouth College, and Jeremy Woods, a lecturer on bioenergy at Imperial College in London, argue that, far from posing a direct threat to the world’s food supply, the development of an African bioenergy industry has great potential to increase food security for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Dr Lynd and Dr Woods suggest that a growing bioenergy economy can be the key to driving this agricultural boom. Land is relatively plentiful in Africa, they write, and land for crops and land for biofuel production will not necessarily be in direct competition.
The African Union has endorsed biofuels as an integral part of its sustainable energy strategy for the continent, giving investors additional security to participate in the early stages of the biofuels industry across the continent.
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