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September 15, 2009

Ghanaian farmers displaced by biofuel company

A Norwegian-based biofuel company is the latest international company reportedly evicting dozens of farmers in northern Ghana to plant jetropha, a non-food crop whose seeds contain oil used for biofuel.

Biofuel Africa Ltd. is claiming ownership of 56 acres of prime farmland and, residents say, forcing out the inhabitants of seven farming villages in Tamale district. Mumud Alhassan Adam, 50-year-old father of five, lost his eighthectare plot where he grew maize and rice. “I went to the farm one day but I realized somebody else was on the farm and then I was told the land had been sold off,” he said in a press interview. “Since then, I have not been allowed to farm.”

BioFuel Africa’s CEO Steinar Kolnes said the company offered the farmers two options: “To stay and farm their crops alongside the jatropha or leave to other more fertile lands we had provided for them.” Those who chose to leave were given plots up to 10 times the size of their previous plots, he said.

Local farmers deny that any deal was offered.

Biofuel production is a booming business, drawing some 20 companies from Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Norway, to acquire land in Ghana, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Kwadwo Poku, a local consultant for several of the multinationals with business in Ghana, told the U.N. news agency IRIN: “With so much land uncultivated [in Ghana], these firms are doing this country a favor by… employing many more farmers.”

But, David Eli, FoodSPAN chairman, disagreed. “As a country we don’t produce enough food to feed everybody so if the argument is that we have enough land then why don’t we invest to cultivate that land for food crops?” asked Eli.

Up to 1.2 million Ghanaians are food insecure, according to the World Food Program’s latest estimates, 453,000 of them in Northern Region.

Frost Illustrated

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