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Agrofuels not a solution to ecological crisis

Guatemalan peasant farmers display their produce. (Photo: courtesy of CCODP) Quebec's Catholic bishops describe a number of widespread ecological problems on a global scale in their May 1st Message of 2001, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor. The Earth, they say, is far from achieving an ecological balance. 

While some might have thought the production of agrofuels was the solution, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace notes that it has led to the exploitation of small-scale farmers in the Global South. 

These peasants and small-scale farmers produce half of the food consumed in the world. However, this is changing with the introduction of large-scale agrofuel production. 

Agrofuels are created from agricultural products like corn, sugar, palm oil, soya and eucalyptus. They are usually grown in monocultures in the poverty-stricken Global South. Monocultures are farmlands that are dedicated to the production of one crop, thereby eliminating agricultural diversity.

Land, which was previously used to grow staple crops to feed the people, is being taken over to grow products that will be converted into fuel. As a result, the cost of food staples for peasants has skyrocketed, driving them further into poverty and making daily living very challenging. 

Furthermore, many of these countries of the Global South are heavily indebted and have had to borrow from international financial institutions. The need to pay off the debt and meet their obligations related to the liberalization of trade with countries of the North has further motivated the takeover of farmland for the production of agrofuels.

Small land-holders and rural communities have been displaced, harassed and evicted due to the spread of these plantations. As well, working conditions on the plantations are difficult for peasants and have been detrimental to their health.

“Agrofuels profit the populations of the industrialized countries, at the expense of those of the Global South, especially the poorest,” reads a Development and Peace document.

As a result, Development and Peace has launched a call to action against agrofuels and in support of food sovereignty.

A peasant in Guatemala cuts sugar cane on a monoculture plantation. (Photo: courtesy of CCODP)Towards food sovereignty

In its autumn 2009 awareness-raising campaign, Development and Peace proposed a number of measures that could be taken to support food sovereignty.

“One simple way for Canada and the countries of the G8 to support small-scale farmers in the Global South is to reduce, even eliminate, all support and and all government subsidies for agrofuels,” declared a backgrounder published by the organization. 

Moreover, a number of organizations in civil society are working on this question at the international level. 

According to Development and Peace, funds should be allocated to the agricultural sector in the Global South: for example, to “reinforce farming organizations, develop agricultural techniques that protect the local environment, above all the soil, organize training sessions for small-scale farmers, promote access to land and establish cooperatives to ensure the market launch of their produce.”

Development and Peace urges Canadians to spur the government to work for justice and equity for the peasants of the Global South.

by Rolande Parrot




























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