Monday, December 06, 2010

Africa: Food Versus Biofuels Debate Continues

Article from IPS:

Africa: Food Versus Biofuels Debate Continues
Mantoe Phakathi
2 December 2010

"We're going to Cancún no better off than we were in Copenhagen," said Thuli Makama, the director of Friends of the Earth Swaziland, as she prepared to leave for the climate negotiations in Mexico.

Makama is worried about one particular proposal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: biofuels. She feels industrialised countries are promoting the production and use of biofuels to fulfill their energy needs, but this will leave more people in the developing world without food.
"We face the danger of growing food for the machines instead of our stomachs," Makama told IPS. Swaziland faces serious shortages of food, with 170,000 of it's million-strong population in need of food aid this year.

Makama and Friends of the Earth campaigned hard against a project to establish biofuels production from jatropha in Swaziland.

A UK-based company called D1 Oils signed contracts with the farmers to grow jatropha for them. An initial agreement with the government planned to put 20,000 hectares into biofuels production, possibly expanding to 50,000. The company website states that there are millions of hectares of marginal land in developing countries that cannot effectively be used to grow food.
"Much of this land is suitable for growing energy crops such as jatropha," says the company, which planned to establish its operations in drought-stricken areas of Swaziland.

FoEI spoke to many of the farmers involved with the project. One of these, Sam Dube, told the environmental campaign group he had devoted all three of his fields to the energy crop, where previously he was growing food on two of his plots, and cotton for a cash income in the third.
He faced a three-year wait while his jatropha matured and he could begin to make a profit.
He could be in trouble. D1 Oils pulled out of the project before it properly took off because, according to the company's CEO in Swaziland, Gaetan Ning, the Swazi government was unwilling to support the project with necessary legislation.

"They wanted us to do a national strategy on biofuels, yet it's not our job to do this but government's," said Ning. After spending more than $8 million over five years cultivating this crop on private farms, the company called it a day.

"We had hired 500 people to work on these farms and we had to retrench them," said Ning.
Gcina Dladla, spokesperson for the Swaziland Environment Authority, said it was a pity that D1 Oils abandoned the project after being asked to do the Strategic Environmental Assessment.
"We wanted to ascertain factually the impact of jatropha on food security, quality of the soil in response to the outcry by civil society organisations," said Dladla.

Prudent, but environmental consultant Rex Brown, who was working with D1 on the jatropha project, argues that food insecurity cannot be blamed on biofuels. The reasons why people in Swaziland and elsewhere go hungry may include inadequate food policies, food availability, market forces, distribution and logistics and suitable climates.

"What is often critical is a person's ability to pay for his food," said Brown. Cultivating jatropha on marginal land in arid Swaziland, he argues, could provide a steady income for rural people either as farm labour or growers in their own right.

Brown says the jatropha-based biofuels project D1 Oils proposed had the added benefit of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon.

"The role of agriculture, and tree crops in particular, in mitigating climate change revolves around the capacity of the plant to store carbon for extended periods of time," said Brown.
Defending biofuels against charges that widescale cultivation will displace farmers and food crops, Brown said it was a case of criticise one, criticise all.

"Rubber, cotton, cocoa, sisal, for example, are crops grown on large plantations globally," said Brown. "Using the argument put forward by biofuel opponents, we should also question the food security of these crops."

No doubt Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, from GRAIN, an international NGO that supports biodiverse, community-based food systems, would question the role played by plantation farming of any type.

Pschorn-Strauss says that biofuels - which GRAIN prefers to call agro-fuels - have already displaced farmers from their land, negatively affected food production and caused the destruction of forest.

"So many promises of agro-fuels like jatropha have not materialised," she said.
She does not want to see biofuels gain wider acceptance as part of a mitigation strategy negotiated in Cancún.

"[The industry] has managed to develop mechanisms and agreements that will allow them to legitimately exploit the environment and people for financial gain," said Pschorn-Strauss.
The answer may lie somewhere between the opposing positions. Researcher David Tilman, from the University of Minnesota in the United States, was the lead author of a paper that outlined the potential bases of sustainable and responsible biofuels production.

To gain the maximum carbon emissions reductions over fossil fuels while conserving forest cover and biodiversity, biofuel feedstock should come from municipal and industrial waste, residues from crops and sustainably harvested wood, and from perennial plants grown on degraded land - already abandoned from agricultural use.

Copyright © 2010 Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.


Talk, talk, talk.....

At the turn of the millennium Countries (mostly European) and corporations have been cued up to take Africa's arable land and water wherever they can. THE ONLY REASON THE DEBATE CONTINUES IS THAT THE EUROS HAVE NOT THE RESULT THEY WANTED.

Come on now! What do WE want?

NEARLY 4 years ago, the FAO banner read, "Combustion Or Consumption? Balancing Food And Biofuel Production." The consequences of large-scale bioenergy production for worldwide food security and biodiversity, takes on new meaning when it is the developing countries providing the biomass. Alexander Maller, Head of FAO's Natural Resources Management and Environment Department, said "While there is legitimate concern among some groups that bioenergy could compromise food security and cause environmental damage, it can also be an important tool for improving the well-being of rural people if governments take into account environmental and food security concerns." Is it only me, or does that sound like the ghost of old colonials.

And the debate continues??????

"Rome is burning it's own crops," is not a phrase we are likely to hear as long as they can conveniently shift the biomass burden to those who have the weakest voice and the most to loose.


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Railroad Is Not Just A Rail And A Road

Just concluded a visit from his eminence, Guinea's interim Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore.
Here is the story in the Observer:

We are pleased about the good relations and the discussions. But people let's think about this...

To move four billion tons of high-grade iron ore through Liberia is no small thing. The proposed railroad option is what cooks this soup! All other options for Guinea are far, far inferior.

As we have been saying for years Liberia needs to wake up to the economic development opportunities. GROWTH WITHOUT DEVELOPMENT should never happen again. From the top of Mount Nimba to the Port of Buchanan will be a fantastic number of chances to taste this soup. A Railroad is not just a Railroad. It requires a long term commitment for operation and maintenance. That means support for bridges, rails, roads, and equipment. This will be jobs, housing, schools and infrastructure development.

Are the people of Nimba and Bassa going to be left with dry rice toped with the red dust of Guinea or are we going to enjoy the soup!


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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Simba Energy - "Onshore" Reconnaissance

News Story from Proactiveinvestors just in: "Simba Energy finds itself surrounded by the lions of oil and gas exploration"

They have acquired the Liberia’s first onshore reconnaissance licence – a 1,366 square kilometre area close to the airport in the capital Monrovia.


Their exploration project will take them into the most fragile environment possible. The target is the mangroves!

Oil and Mangroves do not mix!see:




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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Foreign mining companies - bullying?

Stay tuned....

World briefs (excerpt)
Saturday Star (SA)
October 30, 2010 Edition 1

Mines accused of bullying

TARKWA, Ghana: Foreign mining companies in gold-rich Ghana are accused of regularly seizing people's land, polluting the environment and violently suppressing critics. A report by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law said the mining firms in Ghana's west took land from farmers without compensation. Officials in Ghana could not be reached for comment.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Guinea Deal

More rumblings across the boarder... News from The Africa Report

All part of the master plan (Guinea)
The Africa Report
Written by Honoré Banda in Conakry Wednesday, 27 October 2010 13:16

Guinea is one of the world’s leading producers of bauxite, and its government plans to make it the biggest producer of iron ore. In the final days of President Lansana Conté in December 2008, the regime announced it had revoked 50% of the rights to Rio Tinto’s huge iron ore concession at Simandou and transferred them to Israeli diamond magnate Benny Steinmetz, a friend of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Officials had warned Rio Tinto six months earlier that it had held Simandou for too long without developing it, a breach of the mining code.

The key official behind this more muscular approach is mines minister Mahmoud Thiam. A former banker with Merrill Lynch and UBS, Thiam was asked to return to his native Guinea to take over the mining portfolio after the palace coup in December 2008 that brought Captain Moussa Dadis Camara to power. A canny and well-connected operator, Thiam carries a US passport and contributed to President Barack Obama’s election campaign.

Thiam has masterminded deals with companies from Israel, Brazil, Australia and China to expand iron and bauxite production. Sometimes the new alliances work as a political insurance policy: In October 2009, the military junta signed an infrastructure and minerals deal worth $7bn with China International Fund just days after soldiers killed 150 demonstrators at an opposition rally which triggered calls for international sanctions.

In June, Thiam brought in Brazil’s mining giant Vale to take a 51% stake in a venture with Steinmetz for $2.5bn. That suddenly made the Steinmetz project look serious and added to pressure on Rio. Under a special deal, the Steinmetz-Vale consortium would be able to use a railway on the Liberia side of the border to transport their ore but Rio would have to part-finance a multi-billion-dollar railway project in Guinea. In June, the Conakry junta told Rio that if it did not accept the transfer of 50% of Simandou to Steinmetz and Vale, it risked losing the remaining 50% of the concession. The following month, Rio strengthened its agreement to invest in Simandou by partnering with Beijing’s Chinalco. Rio’s engineers have also started assessing railway routes through the mountainous interior.

According to a message sent by Thiam to a friend in August, he wanted the Steinmetz, Bellzone and Rio Tinto-Chinalco deal resolved before the final round of elections in September when the military is due to hand power back to civilians. "Then I can go home," he said.

This article was first published in the October-November 2010 edition of The Africa Report. The Africa Report; All rights reserved.


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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Sarpo National Park Cleared of Illegal Miners and Poachers


The Analyst (Monrovia)
Liberia: Sarpo National Park Cleared

8 October 2010

Sinoe County Superintendent J. Milton Teahjay has announced that his administration has cleared the Sarpo National Park of more than 20,000 illegal miners and poachers, thanks to the enormous support he said he got from President Sirleaf, international partners, and his colleagues in River Gee and Grand Gedeh counties.

The some in the group that had occupied the park, he disclosed, have been digging large holes indiscriminately in the forest in search of diamond and gold as others killed and poached endangered species of animals, while the rest ripped off rare flowers and tree species carefully selected and planted by horticulturists for research and tourist attraction.

“So going in the park was to preserve the park for research purposes by universities all over the world in agriculture, forestry, fishery, animal raring and all kinds of things. Secondly, when we get to that point of preserving that park and creating an environment in which tourists can go in there to see the animal species that will be a major center of tourists’ attraction in Liberia and perhaps the biggest in the sub- region,” the Sinoe boss said.

The Sarpo National Park, the largest national conservation zone in the country, borders River Gee, Grand Gedeh, and Sinoe counties, about 85% of the Park being in Sinoe.

The illegal miners and poachers had swarmed and occupied the national park dating back to the takeover of the region by the rebel MODEL faction in 2003.

They have since defied efforts by the government and international conservationists to get them out in order to protect endangered species until recently when Superintendent Teahjay booted them out “without firing a bullet”.

Many had thought that clearing of the park of armed felons would have resulted into a firefight, something the superintendent said did not become necessary because the illegal miners and poachers simply complied with his ultimatum to leave the area within a given period.
The former MICAT Deputy Boss, who lavished praises on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for affording him the opportunity to serve his people, said he was grateful to the president, the citizens of Sinoe, his colleagues in the region and donors for the smooth completion of the exercise.

“The Sarpo National Park has been 100% cleared now, without firing a bullet and it is important to state that here. Those who were occupying the park were given a timetable to vacate the park to avoid government forces going in there and having military confrontation with them,” Mr. Teahjay said.

Besides the Liberian government, the authorities of River Gee and Grand Gedeh counties, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the International Conservation Union (ICU), and the ICUMU have contributed immensely to the success, Superintendent Teahjay told The Analyst in an interview this week.

He did not say what roles the county authorities and each of the organizations have played in getting the illegal miners out, but he said what was now important was for the government to barricade the park to prevent the illegal miners and poachers from reoccupying it.

President Sirleaf recently mandated Superintendent Teahjay to clear the Sarpo National Park of illegal miners in preparation for its rehabilitation.

“Now that we have achieved the goal she gave us, we need to now go to her and give our own practical recommendations as to how we can preserve what we have achieved,” he said.

He said he was planning recommending to the President the deployment of a unit of the security forces to work with FDA to keep illegal miners out of the park as removing them once they reoccupied the park would require unnecessary expenditure as well as be time consuming.

“The only way to achieve that objective is for the national security forces to go in there, get posted for a while for the next few months while the FDA is trying to prepare its rangers to take over from the national security forces,” Mr. Teahjay said, noting that a delay would be create a difficult situation.

He said the clearing of the park was one of three major assignments the President gave him upon his induction as Superintendent of Sinoe County in November 2009.

The other two were the clearing of the Sinoe Rubber Corporation (SRC) plantations of illegal tappers, which ended with the intervention of armed guards of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police (LNP), and the gem-rich Government Camp.

Unlike the park and the SRC situation, which required the forced removal of illegal occupants, he said he was successful in getting the Government Camp miners to upgrade their operational licenses from 23% to 92%.

He did not say what the increased percentage point meant for government revenue generation in the region or in terms of illegal cross-border trade, which UN says has become an emerging problem in Liberia as border security improved in the region, but he said he was satisfied that the miners were operating legally.

Meantime the Sinoe County Superintendent has disclosed that some of the yellow machines the county has ordered for road and bridge construction have arrived in the country.

He said the caterpillar machine was still en route and would take few more months to arrive in the country because it was being shipped on a separate vessel because of its size.

“The equipments are being bought and they are currently in Monrovia and you can go on the 13th Street and those machines are there on display, except for the caterpillar that is still on the way coming,” he said.

He said the presence of the equipment, which would be transported to Sinoe when road condition improved, settled the suspicion that he had withdrawn US $250,000.00 from the Sinoe Development Fund to construct a private mansion.

“Even if the people of Sinoe County were stupid, they will not allow me to go and withdraw US $250,000.00, where do I get that kind of trick from to do it? So, the equipments are here and they are on display now for verification. But I am disappointed that while we are trying to put Sinoe County on the right path in terms of development, there are those who are still bent on destroying Sinoe County,” he said.

The Sinoe boss, who graded himself “A” for achieving presidential assignments on time, said his administration has reconciled the people of Sinoe to the extent that there was no distinction between Sarpos, Krus, Jelapoans, and Americo-Liberians.

“Sinoe County now is reconciled, everybody in the country is now considered to be Sinoans and not tribal elements,” he claimed, grateful to the youth and student population of the county for supporting his administration in its endeavor to undertake meaningful development.

“I also want to assure them that the scholarship scheme which was mismanaged many years ago before I became superintendent of Sinoe County is back on course,” he declared.

Meanwhile the former United People’s Party (UPP) presidential hopeful said his only political ambition now is to serve the people of Sinoe County as superintendent.

He then disclosed plans by President Sirleaf, in collaboration with the Governance Reform Commission (GRC), to submit a bill to parliament calling for the election of county superintendents.

“If that bill passes the House, it will be a good thing to try to serve my people if they want me to serve them. Any other thing beyond the superintendent position is possible, but I want to keep my card to my chest at this point,” Mr. Teahjay said.

Copyright © 2010 The Analyst. All rights reserved.




Monday, September 13, 2010

Putu Development - Grand Gedah Association in the Americas register Disappointment

GGAA Disappointed With Gedeh Mountain Concession Agreement

(Letter published in the Liberian Journal)

(Sep 13, 2010)
[photo: Jeremiah Garwo Sokan, Sr. Secretary General, GGAA]

The National Administration of Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas learned this past week that the Putu Mountain (Gedeh Mountain) concession agreement presented to the Liberian legislature few days ago was passed by the august body and is now enacted into law.

We the citizens of Grand Gedeh County are disappointed in the manner in which the Government of Liberia handled the entire process:

1) Government of Liberia failed to include a representation from the Grand Gedeh County on the committee responsible for the drafting the Putu Ore Mining Concession Agreement and inform the people at least about key provisions.

2) The draft concession agreement was kept as a secret from the people of Grand Gedeh County by the Committee-in-Charge and the Government of Liberia. Drafting a document that would affect the lives and livelihood of people residing in the areas of mining should not have been kept as secret until it passes into law. This practice is unfair and overlooked the opinions of the citizens of the region.

3) Government of Liberia blended the deliberations on this critical agreement with the complex debate of the 2010 Annual National Budget of the Republic of Liberia. As a result, the 150-page, plus document (the Putu Mountain Concession Agreement) was rushed down the throats of the people of Grand Gedeh County without them knowing the content.

In this 21st century, a participatory leadership style is the bedrock to good governance. It is incomprehensible that such aspect of civil service will elude our leadership on critical issues that will affect the lives and livelihood of people who live in the areas of the mining activities.


Jeremiah Garwo Sokan, Sr.
National Secretary General, GGAA

Tel: 484- 948-9484, e-mail:

Editor's Note: GGAA press release.

© Copyright 2008 The Liberian Journal - All Rights reserved.

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