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Biofuels fuelling world hunger, says new ActionAid report

June 2013

The crops used as biofuel for vehicles in G8 countries would feed half the world’s 870 million hungry people, ActionAid estimates in a new report.

The anti-poverty charity says biofuels have become a principal cause of world hunger because many crops are no longer used for food, and it claims even the argument that they would be greener than fossil fuels has been discredited.

The report calculates that about 23,000 square miles of sub-Saharan Africa, equivalent to almost half the area of England, are farmed by European companies for biofuel crops. UK companies take up a third of that land.

Anders Dahlbeck, ActionAid UK’s policy adviser, said: “If the world’s most powerful nations are serious about tackling hunger, they must first address their own biofuel use.

“Their policies have created a demand for the worst kinds of biofuels that push up food prices and are produced from crops that grow on land which should be used for food.
“The G8 meets in the UK later this summer. David Cameron has committed to put the causes of global hunger high on the political agenda during his presidency.
“This is an important opportunity for him to show leadership and urge other countries to acknowledge and address the impact that biofuels have on hunger.
“What may originally have been a well-intentioned policy to make our transport fuels greener has turned out to be disastrous for global hunger. It has led to the diversion of land use and, in a further irony, may be worsening global warming as many biofuels increase greenhouse gas emissions.”

A campaign by Enough Food for Everyone IF, a coalition of more than 100 charities, including ActionAid, has formally asked Cameron to put the anti-biofuels case to the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland on 17-18 June.

Another NGO report has said the single most important action governments can take to end global hunger is to support the millions of poor women farming tiny plots in developing countries.

The UK Hunger Alliance, a group of international charities, emphasises that one in eight people still goes hungry. It reports: “If you’re the one in eight, there’s a good chance you’re a small-scale farmer living in a developing country, because these farmers make up three-quarters of the world’s hungry.”

The farmers struggle to feed their families, it says, but most cannot grow enough food to do so.
The alliance says 96% of farms in Bangladesh, 85% in Ghana and 82% in India are of two hectares or less. It maintains that unlocking the potential of this under-used resource with training and other support is essential to beating hunger.  

ActionAid | Global |

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