Let’s Discuss And Combine To Avert Jatropha Suffocation Of Countries Of The ‘South’ – Olaseinde Arigbede

With special reference to JATROPHA – DIESEL

1. Whatever new development, technological or otherwise, that human beings have embarked upon with the primary/sole intention of maximising profit, human interest and wellbeing have always been sacrificed.
2. The general drive to use land, meant fundamentally for sustaining human livelihoods via food production, for the production of cheap alternatives to fossil fuels that are a wasting and unsustainable asset, has been based on the struggle to maximise profit. All that its protagonists claim ─ that it is a safe fuel, that it is sustainable, that it is non-polluting ─ amount to no more than afterthoughts and false excuses.
3. At any rate, a civilisation based on insatiable and ever growing appetite for consumption of fuels, starting with fossil fuels and now expanding into agro-fuels, is fundamentally human-unfriendly.
4. Although human beings, including our own ancestors in Africa, have long used biological organic material, in the form of oils mainly, for fuel production, this has been done on a scale and with the central motivation that is guided by what is best for human beings and the environment. The scale of such production, community Biofuel production, has always been small, manageable and community-based, with a strong sense of responsibility for human welfare being central to them.
5. Today’s Industrial Agrofuel production, an ever expanding octopus, is in the greedy hands of corporate giants of the Northern hemisphere, whose divinity is money, and more money. Worries about the health, livelihood and happiness of human beings and their communities are strictly foreign to such corporate concerns.
6. Before Agribusiness Trans-National Corporations and their supporting governments embarked upon the use of land, meant to produce food for human beings for the production of fuels for engines, safer and more human-friendly as well as nature-respecting alternatives were already known to science.
7. Why, we should ask them, did they and our governments prefer to wage a struggle for precious land and put the livelihood of millions of people in jeopardy.
8. In order to deceive people and get them to agree to this criminal conversion, the protagonists of Jatropha Agrofuel production have told lies upon lies. They have claimed that this shrub, Jatropha, actually thrives on marginal and spent land. This is patently untrue as we know that the quality of soil also determines the productivity of the plant. Will you, as a Jatropha farmer, plant your own crop on degraded land and go into competition in the market with someone who grew his/her own on rich soil? Most certainly not and we know from looking at existing projects that the claim that land used for this crop is degraded and unusable land, is far from the truth, anywhere, especially in Nigeria. Beyond this, who is to say that a piece of land is degraded beyond repair and rehabilitation to produce food for human beings? We need go no further than Ethiopia to see that even the most degraded piece of land can and is often turned around to produce bountiful harvests of staple food crops. Why are we deceiving ourselves?
9. We also have the example of what happened to smallholder farmers in Tanzania and Benin Republic, to put to rest the story of how Jatropha plantation projects have turned poor farmers into self sufficient and reasonably well-off farmers. Farmers, deceived into joining these projects as Contract farmers, have soon discovered that, right from the very agreement signed with them by the companies, to the total monopoly of all stages and outputs of the enterprise by these companies, the story is one of deepening impoverishment of both farmers and their ancestral lands.
10. The claim by our governments that the project would entail transfer of technology, new manufacturing capacities, jobs for our youths and all-round development for the communities, is a sorry self delusion, at best and, at worst, just another example of how our own leaders shut their eyes, take their own cuts, and destroy their nations. No nation transfers its useful or new technology to another and it is to live in a fool’s paradise to think that it would be otherwise. The real heart of the technologies involved would never be truly transferred to our people. We shall merely continue to export Jatropha seed, minimally processed with very little added value, to the Northern hemisphere. It must be clear that the scenario would not be much different from that of Cacao which has persisted for scores of years now and the main profits would be reaped by the agribusinesses. When, as is being done already, all African countries have been seduced, through their own leaders, to produce Jatropha seeds in ever large tonnages, they would all begin to compete against one another and the price of this new “commodity of the dependents” would fall and fall until the producers die of poverty.
11. The claim that we ourselves would have more access to more diesel and other products of Agrofuel production, is also a pitiable lack of hindsight, let alone foresight. What has happened to the output of the many oil wells that have destroyed the lives, livelihoods, health and dignity of our people in the Niger Delta? Have we become self-reliant producers of our crude, or refiners of our petrol and other products, or manufacturers of the material used for our incessant and never successful TAMs?
12. Even fools would recognise already that there is no way in which the diversion of land for Jatropha planting would not compete with our food production systems, fragile as they are. Our governments are already falling over one another to strike juicy arrangements, of laughable Direct Foreign Investments, with all manner of companies from the North. Our elites, from aspiring entrepreneurs to Senators who have awarded themselves obscene salaries right under our noses, have dug their deadly teeth into their home communities, persuading them that this is the way to go, and taking huge stretches of land to offer to their business partners on Jatropha production. All these negative forces, combine to lure smallholder farmers into selling cheaply, their family and community lands, become Jatropha slaves for a pittance, leave off planting staples that they and their families and communities need desperately, and make wholesale dive into poverty.
13. It is now a known fact to those who care to search, but still vehemently denied by Jatropha advocates, that where this plant is exploited in plantation expanse, cassava would find it very difficult to thrive properly.
14. It doesn’t seem odd to any of these greedy protagonists of unlimited Jatropha production, that the companies and entrepreneurs from the North and their governments, have not found it necessary to stay at home and use their own food producing lands for the planting of diesel and alcohol for their own engines. Rather, out of boundless love, they cross the seas and skies to come to Africa, to take our land, banish our food staples, import all manner of harmful genetic material, destroy our biodiversity, to produce agro-diesel and agro-alcohol for their engines. Of course, they do not know that, as an example, if the USA were to produce from its own farmlands, the Agrofuel needed for its transport system in one year, it would need to use up all food producing lands and need up to another 21% more to satisfy this need —- for just one year!!
15. In all these considerations, no one seems to have thought about the needs and interests of UNBORN NIGERIANS. If our own great grandparents had sold off the food producing lands in our communities, what would we have done for a living today? Land that is alienated to Jatropha planting, does not come free for another 50 years at least.
16. If we continue the way we are going in this generation, the food crisis which now makes Gari no longer a poor man’s food, would be child’s play when compared with what our grandchildren would have to suffer. All this, because our elites cannot control their greed and be responsible to the present and the future.
17. Moreover, there is no way in which the Jatropha economy would expand without it being used as an excuse for bringing into the country, Genetically Modified/Engineered seeds, for Jatropha and all other crops in the agro-fuel economy. Those who pursue the Jatropha economy are motivated by nothing else but ever expanding profit. The huge investments that they make also compel them to seek to produce the largest output possible and it is GE (genetically engineered) varieties that can guarantee them this, even though it means, in the medium term, severe damage to our biodiversity and our native seeds.
18. Another scramble for Africa has begun and it can only end in the deepening of the avoidable poverty that our leaders have brought upon the people and their environment. Palm oil, our major cooking oil, is already in danger of being snatched away from the pots of our people by hungry engines of Europe and America, Japan, China, etc. Our Cassava and Maize are being genetically engineered in ways that would infect our own native staples, to produce alcohol to run the cars in Europe, America, Japan, etc. Soon, our own crops ─ maize, sorghum, cassava, palm oil, and many more, would be contaminated by these unhealthy invaders to the point where they would no longer promote our health and wellbeing. We shall end up depending on food from America and Europe!!
19. Tell our leaders, loud and clear, this is the disaster into which they are leading us and posterity will surely judge them, very harshly indeed.
20. There is a lot more to say on Jatropha and other Agrofuel feedstock that our leaders and their foreign collaborators wield over our heads like the sword of Satan. If, however, what has been said above is not enough to change the mind of any of our leaders, inside or outside government, to reverse the dangerous trend, we, as the people, must ask God to lead us to a new dawn.

Thanks and God bless.


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