Biofuelling Poverty – EU plans could be disastrous for poor people warns Oxfam

Global charity Oxfam believes the EU’s plans to increase the use of biofuels could spell disaster for some of the world?s poorest people.

In a press statement issued today, Oxfam revealed EU proposals will make it mandatory by 2020 for ten per cent of all member states? transport fuels to come from biofuels. In order to meet the substantial increase in demand, the EU will have to import biofuels made from crops like sugar cane and palm oil from developing countries. But the rush by big companies and governments in countries such as Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, Tanzania and Malaysia to win a slice of the ?EU biofuel pie? threatens to force poor people from their land, destroy their livelihoods, lead to the exploitation of workers and hurt the availability and affordability of food.

Biofuels may offer the potential to reduce poverty by increasing jobs and markets for small farmers, and by providing cheap renewable energy for local use, but the huge plantations emerging to supply the EU pose more threats than opportunities for poor people. The problem will only get worse as the scramble to supply intensifies unless the EU introduces safeguards to protect land rights, livelihoods, workers rights and food security.

EU member states agreed that the ten per cent target must be reached sustainably, but Oxfam warns that the current proposals contain no standards on the social or human impact.

Oxfam added in their release, how published reports show as much as 5.6 million square kilometres of land ? an area more than ten times the size of France – could be in production of biofuels within 20 years in India, Brazil, Southern Africa and Indonesia alone. The UN estimates that 60 million people worldwide face clearance from their land to make way for biofuel plantations. Many end up in slums in search of work, others on the very plantations that have displaced them with poor pay, squalid conditions and no worker rights. Women workers are routinely discriminated against and often paid less then men.

In Indonesia almost a third of palm oil is produced by smallholders most of whom lost their land to advancing plantations and were ?rewarded? with a two hectare plot. These smallholders are bonded to the palm oil companies which provide them with credit and are required to sell to them ? which means they do not get the best price for their oil; according to Oxfam.
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