Accra – farmers demonstration
The farmers are bitter that the dumping of cheap goods, coupled with western hypocrisy and their own government’s inaction have combined to kill their sources of livelihoods. As a result, their children have dropped out of school, wives, husbands and kinsmen have died in hospitals because they cannot pay fees.

Beware Westerners giving advice.
It’s not that the advice doesn’t work out to someone’s benefit,
it’s just that that someone isn’t you.

. . . most “development” of the 3rd world – most of the advice, often advice with a big stick, has been very bad for most countries that took it. The countries that got themselves out of undeveloped status didn’t do it by following the advice of western development experts . . .

Food versus fuel is the question most often asked about growing biofuel. But the carbon trading issue may also work against a developing country by creating economic pressure to keep it from developing.

Africa Journal is published by The Corporate Council on Africa. Check who is on their Board to get some idea of their viewpoint. The current issue features an article on growing biofuel in Africa by Katherine Constabile, republished at allAfrica.com.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging biofuel industry serves the interests of developed markets on many levels, most notably by providing an alternative to hydrocarbon dependence. Industrialized countries subject to the Kyoto Protocol Greenhouse Gas Emissions caps can also meet their emissions reduction targets through Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs).
. . .
Private and public sector institutions such as Agrinergy and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are currently working to streamline the CDM biofuel approval process, which will enable industrialized countries to facilitate biofuel projects in Africa for their benefit. Increasingly, Africa will be a frontier for developed nations to diversify their energy supplies and attain carbon “neutrality.”
. . .
China seeks to participate in the agriculture and biofuel craze, while the EU needs to reach its target that 5.75% of vehicle fuels be renewable by 2010. If the EU tries to reach this target from supplies in Europe alone, one quarter of the (European) Continent’s land would be covered with biofuel crops. No one wants that.

There is no mention of how much of the African continent might be covered with biofuel crops, and how that might matter to the people who live there. The article goes on to describe why and how Angola is the initial target for biodiesel production, and Mozambique for ethanol production. It mentions water supply as another problem, but is glibly vague about how it might be addressed.

Sugarcane in Brazil for instance evaporates approximately 2200 litres (of water) for every litre of ethanol produced. For drought-ridden areas of sub-Saharan Africa, this number is staggering.
. . .
Since developed nations benefit from the biofuel craze, political will and financial support to capture and recycle food water and tap into deep water tables will likely emerge. In addition, rainmaking techniques such as those utilized in Thailand and seawater-irrigation could also draw attention from researchers.

Tapping into deep water tables is worrisome. My undestanding is that the deep water table is not renewable, or not easily and quickly renewable. With this in mind, tapping in to it, to benefit the developed countries, and not the home country, with water loss of ratio of 2200 to 1, and none of that going to drinking water or food production, is short sighted and selfish exploitation. And that is about the kindest thing one can say of it. It is quite clear that the biofuel initiative is completely designed for the benefit of the developed world. Any benefit to the developing host country is vaguely speculative, and clearly an afterthought.

Then comes the usual sweet talk about how all this is a plus for African farmers.

Africa as a biofuel frontier seems inevitable. . . .However, the increased political will to produce biofuels yields immense trickle-down effects. The benefits to the countries at hand include a deployment of Africa’s agricultural potential, real investment into irrigation technologies, and lasting land-based infrastructural developments.

Just the words trickle down make me cringe. I find it hard to believe that anyone can say this seriously and not expect their audience to fall about laughing. That has been what Republicans have been preaching as economic policy in the US for at least the last 30 years. And it has worked, but in reverse. Benefits have trickled up, like a waterfall film run backwards. People at the top of the US economic heap are far richer in proportion to the middle class and the poor than they were 30 years ago. Working Americans have seen their wages stagnate or fall. And the US economy, its democracy, and its potential for the future have all been severely damaged.

I would say beware of anyone who talks enthusiastically of trickle down economic effects. As noted above: It’s not that the advice doesn’t work out to someone’s benefit, it’s just that that someone isn’t you.

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Switching to fiction, if you like a good story, see this short piece of speculative fiction by a Ghanaian author, set in Africa 50 years from now, touching on how carbon trading might evolve.