This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are Biofuels Good for Africa?

There is a lot of global discussion about trying to make fuel from just about anything except petroleum (and probably also from nuclear sources) and that discussion seems to lead most easily to oil from plants--biofuels. The BBC has a story, though, about the effect of this movement on Kenya, where...

...An Italian company has asked the authorities for permission to lease 50,000 hectares there to grow jatropha, whose seeds are rich in oil that can be turned into bio-diesel.
This plant, originally from South America, has long been grown in Africa as a hedge to keep out animals - goats stay well away as it is poisonous. The area affected is community land which is being held in trust by the local council.
This expansion has been spurred by the European Union, which has set ambitious goals for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing its reliance on imported oil.
Basically, the EU does not want to use any of its own farmland to grow plants that produce biofuels, so European firms are searching for land in developing countries. That doesn't necessarily sit well with the local population.
Some ask: "Why 'feed' a car in Europe when hunger at home is still a reality?"
"Our future is no longer in our hands. We have been told we have to move because they want to plant jatropha here," said 27-year-old Merciline Koi, a mother of two, who added that there had been no offer of compensation for leaving her home in Dakatcha Woodlands.
This story is just unfolding, so we will have to see how it turns out. In the meantime, the BBC notes that there are already many farms in Africa (and India) that are growing jatropha as a source of oil for European customers. The Italian company that wants to set up shop in Kenya "has leased almost a million hectares in Africa; jatropha oil from a plantation in Senegal is being supplied to the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea. Other companies have leased land for the same purpose in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana, as well as in India."

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