Biofuels and food security in sub-Saharan Africa

Chizoba Chinweze


The global demand for biofuels, especially the European Union and United States bioenergy mandate has prompted industrial plantations and agribusiness in sub-Saharan Africa; which jeopardize the immediate and long-term food security in the region. The sub-Saharan Africa international land acquisition for biofuel crops accounted for a share of about 60% both in terms of total number of deals and in covered area (Giovannetti and Ticci, 2012), yet the agricultural land in Africa covers less than 15% of the land area.

From the foregoing it is evident that the area used for biofuels production is enlarging and competes unfavourably with food production for local consumption. These investments for biofuel production are with the expectation of higher long-term returns as the financial powerful nations gets the most quality land and free access to water, while the natives landlords  are either displaced, dispossessed or made land-labourers to their detriment. 70% of the SSA population lives off the land, relying on subsistence agriculture for livelihoods. A shift from staple food to biofuels production is highly likely to adversely affect food security and exacerbate poverty and hunger in the region.  

Already about 30% of the SSA population are undernourished and as the population of the region grows to approximately 1.5-2 billion by 2050, food production levels will need to quadruple to avert starvation and a major food crisis. This challenge is further heightened when biofuel production is added to the menu

This paper contributes to the growing knowledge on foreign land investment in SSA for biofuel production and its consequences on livelihoods and food security.


Biofuels, food security, disaster risk management, sub-Saharan Africa, conflicts, poverty.

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