The Verge is continuing to impress with its breadth of coverage, going way beyond its myopic wheelhouse of posts about gadgets. Land grabbing in Africa for bio fuels is about as far as one can get from the latest gossip about Apple’s newest iPhone. In this piece, Amar Toor takes a look at Addax Bioenergy’s business practices in one of Africa’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone:
ActionAid, a UK-based charity, lashed out at Addax Bioenergy earlier this month, accusing the Swiss company of engaging in a biofuels “land grab” that has diminished food supplies and harmed the livelihoods of locals in the Bombali region of Sierra Leone. Addax took out a 50-year lease on more than 50,000 hectares of land there in 2008, and has since set up a massive sugarcane plantation to produce ethanol for biofuels. The company plans to begin exporting ethanol to Europe by 2014, and aims to provide electricity for around 20 percent of Sierra Leone’s national grid.
The Addax Bioenergy Project was the first Africa-based complex to earn certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, but according to ActionAid’s survey of more than 100 local villagers, the investment hasn’t made much of an impact on everyday life. The charity’s report, published on September 3rd, claims that Addax’s sugarcane complex has decimated valuable farmland in Sierra Leone, decreasing food production in a region already ravaged by hunger. ActionAid also claims that Addax’s lease contracts were signed without the involvement of local communities, and that a program designed to train farmers on more advanced agricultural techniques has so far resulted in lower crop yields.