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‘Land grabbing’ in Africa: Biofuels are not off the hook

A new report by Dutch consultancy firm Ecofys claims that European demand for biofuels is not to blame for “land grabbing” in poorer countries. The report — commissioned by an organisation that "represents the European renewable ethanol industry" — comes as EU law-makers discuss new biofuel legislation that could curb support to the sector.

The report reviews deals accounting for 67 per cent of total area included in the Land Matrix dabatase, which is one of the most ambitious attempts to monitor trends in land acquisitions.

Ecofys concludes that only 35 per cent of the land area in the deals it reviewed could be “confirmed”, as the remainder was from deals that never came to fruition or that have been cancelled. The report also estimates that biofuels account for far less land acquisition than previously thought.

The report implies that "land grabbing" has been exaggerated, and concludes that demand for biofuels has not been not a major driver of land acquisition.

This may sound reassuring. But the report’s findings require closer scrutiny. And while I have argued in my book The Great African Land Grab? that media reports are likely to have overestimated the scale of the land rush, there is no ground for complacency.

For the complete article, please see International Institute for Environment and Development.