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Sub-Saharan Africa's Biofuel Problem

critics argue that the biofuel industry is taking land from people in Sierra Leone.
Some critics argue that the biofuel industry is taking land from people in Sierra Leone and driving them further into poverty.

With global reserves of oil depleting rapidly, many countries are turning their attention to biofuels as sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. Although biofuels such as ethanol have been used in gasoline for many years, some nations are anxious to expand production of newer biofuels. However, according to a recent report published by ActionAid, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa could be adversely affected by biofuel production practices across the region.

Losing Land

Many countries in the European Union are focusing their energy policies around the increased use of biofuels made from sugarcane. Addax Bioenergy, a Swiss energy company, plans to increase its presence in Sierra Leone to provide European nations with greater supplies of biofuels. On the surface, this may seem like both a step forward in reducing Europe's reliance on fossil fuels and an economic boon in Africa, but according to U.K. Charity ActionAid's September 2013 report, titled "Broken Promises," many families in Sierra Leone's poorest communities are losing their land and are not receiving proper payment from biofuel manufacturers.

"In the area where the company has started its biofuels plantation, communities are saying that food production has dropped and hunger is widespread," says Tim Rice, ActionAid's biofuels policy advisor and author of the report. "People have lost their land but are getting very little in way of compensation from Addax. The fact that this is done in the name of EU 'green' policies is shocking."

Harnessing Potential

Although Addax Bioenergy disputes the findings of ActionAid's report and other critics say the biofuel vs. land argument is oversimplified, many people agree that there is an urgent need to address both fuel and food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa. According to The New York Times, almost 2 billion people will be trying to live off the land across the region by 2050. If food supplies do not match population expansion, countries in sub-Saharan Africa will need to triple their food production output to adequately feed the growing population.

Food scarcity is a serious problem across Africa, particularly in countries like Sierra Leone. One way you can help ChildFund bring hope to children in need and their families is by becoming a monthly giving partner. Our Essentials for Survival fund provides access to nutritious food, medications and clean drinking water for families living in some of the world's poorest countries where the need is greatest. Without the support of our donors, we could not do so as effectively, so please consider becoming a monthly giving partner today.

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