Biofuel Potential and FAO’s Estimates of Available Land: The Case of Tanzania
Hans Morten Haugen
Diakonhjemmet University College
October 10, 2011
Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 30-37, 2010
While there exists underutilized lands in several countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the drive towards transforming huge areas of land to biofuels plantations, must be reviewed critically. Both the facts that much of these lands are presently covered with forests or classified as wetlands, having a high carbon storage capacity, and that these lands are used by local communities for their survival, must be acknowledged. The article analyzes the reasons for why both public authorities, academics and non-governmental organizations operate with very high estimates on available lands for agriculture in Tanzania, more specifically 550.000 km2. This figure implies that almost two thirds of Tanzania is available for agriculture, and the figure frequently appears in the context of the potentials for biofuels production in Tanzania. Both this figure and other, much lower figures, originate from FAO. Even if subsequent FAO reports reiterate that this high figure should be used with caution, the article builds an argument to call upon FAO to explicitly denounce the use of this figure, as it is simply not appropriate to apply this figure as a basis for planning agricultural expansion in Tanzania.
Keywords: biofuels, land availability, Tanzania, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Agro-ecological Assessment
JEL Classification: Q15, Q24Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 10, 2011
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