Climate Change

An increasing number of studies have shown that biofuels derived from agricultural crops propose a false solution to the climate crisis and have created an unprecedented rush for land threatening land rights and food security globally.

The Facts

The current development landscape is dominated by Green Revolution ideals—improved or genetically modified seeds used in capital-intensive large-scale agriculture schemes with a prominent role for pesticides and fertilizers. Rather than contributing to food security and sovereignty, these efforts lead to large tracts of monoculture that prioritize export crops, require increased mechanization, and depend on multinationals for chemicals and seeds.

Agro-ecology provides another path. It encompasses a wide-variety of practices, which are coherent with key principles of environment preservation, social fairness, and economic viability. Agroecology combines parameters of sound ecological management, like minimizing the use of toxics by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers' livelihoods. Agro-ecological systems like the Rice Intensification implemented along the Niger River in Mali, can double small farmers’ agricultural output. Supporting smallholder farmers, who already produce over 80 percent of the food consumed in many developing regions, is the quickest way to lift over one billion people out of poverty.

Adhering to a high investigative standard with consideration of local impact and international trends, The Oakland Institute documents and advocates for agro-ecological farming methods that empower local producers.

The Institute’s thirty-three case studies released in 2015 shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

7 Western-based multinationals control over 70% of global industrial seed sales.

79%—average crop yield increases based on a review conducted by the FAO in 57 low-income countries when factoring efficient use of water, reduced use of pesticides, and improvements in soil health.

Sustainable agriculture improves food supply, nutrition, and livelihoods in LDCs based on research by the UN and numerous other bodies.

Increased yields by 116% with a shift toward organic agriculture production i based on a UNEP-UNCTAD analysis of 114 cases in Africathat.

$192 million—estimated annual value gained from ecosystem services if half of the arable area under conventional farming is shifted to organic.

The current development landscape is dominated by Green Revolution ideals—improved or genetically modified seeds used in capital-intensive large-scale agriculture schemes with a prominent role for pesticides and fertilizers. Rather than contributing to food security and sovereignty, these efforts lead to large tracts of monoculture that prioritize export crops, require increased mechanization, and depend on multinationals for chemicals and seeds.

Agro-ecology provides another path. It encompasses a wide-variety of practices, which are coherent with key principles of environment preservation, social fairness, and economic viability. Agroecology combines parameters of sound ecological management, like minimizing the use of toxics by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers' livelihoods. Agro-ecological systems like the Rice Intensification implemented along the Niger River in Mali, can double small farmers’ agricultural output. Supporting smallholder farmers, who already produce over 80 percent of the food consumed in many developing regions, is the quickest way to lift over one billion people out of poverty.

Adhering to a high investigative standard with consideration of local impact and international trends, The Oakland Institute documents and advocates for agro-ecological farming methods that empower local producers.

The Institute’s thirty-three case studies released in 2015 shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

International aid, consisting of resources supplied by one country to another, is critical to save lives, protect livelihoods, and finance reconstruction in communities wracked by war or natural disasters. While it is generally seen as an instrument of development for the poorest countries, wealthy donor nations also frequently provide aid in a manner that economically supports their own domestic industries or their foreign policy agendas.

USAID candidly states, “The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States… Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans.” This pattern is particularly evident in the provision of US food aid. When USAID sells US wheat reserves on behalf of aid recipients and in turn asks recipients to purchase select commodities from US producers, this effectively subsidizes US farmers and undermines food producers in recipient countries.

In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their GNI (Gross National Income) as official international development aid annually. Year after year, almost all rich nations have consistently failed to reach this target—their aid accounts to 0.2 to 0.4% of their GNI on average.

In 2010, net official development assistance (ODA) flows from OECD countries reached $128.7 billion, representing an increase of 6.5% over 2009. However, aid still averaged only 0.32% of the combined GNI of donor countries—less than half of what had been promised long ago.

50% of US International Aid goes to just six countries that are US allies in the wars on terror and drug trafficking.

International aid is often criticized for its poor effectiveness. This is especially true for aid that comes attached with conditionalities and in-kind assistance, such as food aid, which has been shown to cost at least 30% more than locally sourced food aid.

Crop-based biofuels are produced from crops such as soy, corn, sugarcane and oil palm. In theory, fuel derived from biomass is carbon neutral, as the CO2 absorbed by plants is simply re-released when fuel is combusted. However, when considering the full “life cycle” of agro-fuels—from land clearing to burning to peat drainage to fertilizer use to transport—far more greenhouse gas is released in the production process.

Despite biofuel’s ambiguous environmental implications, as of January 2016, 64 countries have passed legislation mandating biofuel use in motor fuels. These mandates would secure the global production of 61 billion biofuel gallons per year by 2023. The US and the European Union in particular have turned abroad to secure land for fuel, and biofuel production is now the largest single impetus for land deals in the developing world. This land rush in the developing world has resulted in thorny environmental and social consequences. As food and fuel crops compete for land and resources, land deals for biofuel production have resulted in higher food prices, displaced communities, food insecurity, and permanent environmental damage.

What we are doing about it

The Oakland Institute is researching, monitoring, and evaluating the effects of increased biofuel demands on agricultural trends and land acquisitions globally. We have done extensive research on biofuel land investments in Africa and beyond.

The aviation industry has high hopes for biofuels. As its profits are increasingly threatened by erratic fossil fuel prices, and as consumers are more and more concerned with the role of aviation in climate change, biofuels are being billed as the path to both profitability and sustainability. Unfortunately, emerging evidence suggests that as airlines rush to procure biofuel, they do so at the expense of people and the environment.

After decades of limited interest in agriculture in developing countries, foreign direct investment (FDI) in agriculture is on the rise. In recent years, over 4 million hectares (ha) of land have been requested by foreign investors for both agrofuel and food production in Tanzania. Though a small portion of these (70,000 ha) had actually been formally leased as of December 2010, this confirms Tanzania as a very attractive country for foreign investors seeking to grow food and agrofuels for export.

Phase two of our research on land grabs reveals how bad energy policies and development agendas contribute to famine and conflict in Africa.

This report identifies and examines cases of large-scale land acquisitions in Mali. The report provides background on the institutional and political context of the country, the current macroeconomic situation, the state of food and agriculture, and the current investment climate. Additionally, it documents detailed information regarding four land investment deals currently being carried out in Mali.

September 25, 2012
The Tanzanian government has put agriculture at the forefront of its development agenda through its “kilimo kwanza” (agriculture first) initiative, which was established in 2009. For a country like Tanzania, which is gifted with a rich diversity of natural and human resources and has a population that is still largely rural, investment in agriculture can offer considerable development potential.
July 9, 2012
In June 2011, the Oakland Institute (OI) released details of the largest land deal in Tanzania, which had been hidden away from public scrutiny prior to that and obscured from national debate and discussion. The deal involved Iowa-based Summit Group and the Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group working in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
December 6, 2011
In the trend of large-scale agricultural land acquisitions in Sub-Saharan Africa “green investments” such as the production of agrofuels and agroforestry developments, are upheld as climate solutions, and are being used to justify, promote, and accelerate massive land grabs. Yet, even as research indicates that the expansion of industrial agriculture on African soil is likely to aggravate the heating of the planet, market mechanisms like carbon trade and carbon credits are providing a “green cover” for current land grabs.
December 6, 2011
The June 2011 publication of the Oakland Institute’s investigation into AgriSol Energy’s land deal in Tanzania was followed by an indicting televised report from Dan Rather, the involvement of international civil society including the Sierra Club, Tanzanian activists, and a broad array of supporters from around the world. Yet, AgriSol still plans to go ahead with this large-scale agricultural project to produce agrofuel and genetically modified crops for export from Tanzania.
May 24, 2011
Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone Limited is the company behind the most developed land deal in Sierra Leone to date. “Renewable energy” subsidiary of Addax & Oryx Group, a Swiss-based energy corporation, Addax has leased 20,000 hectares for 50 years in the Bombali district to grow sugarcane to produce ethanol for export to Europe and electricity from the by-products to be sold in Sierra Leone.
May 24, 2011
Iowa-based Summit Group and Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group, in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, are developing a large agriculture enterprise in Tanzania. The site encompasses three “abandoned refugee camps”– Lugufu in Kigoma province (25,000 ha), Katumba (80,317 ha), and Mishamo (219,800 ha), both in Rukwa province.