Burkina Faso Soon a Biofuel Producer

Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydropower, and Marine Resources and the French company AgroEd signed a framework agreement for developing a biofuels industry in Burkina Faso.

All entire process will take place in Burkina, from the cultivation of plants (cotton, Jatropha, etc.) to the production of fuel.

This idea has been greeted with enthusiasm by more than one person. Biofuel experts believe that, “Africa has a real chance to enter this industry, which is profitable now especially with the price of oil, rising day by day,” [FR] writes journalist Alban Kini.

However, many netizens have expressed skepticism about whether Burkina Faso can become a competitive producer of biofuels, and whether ordinary people, in particular the farmers, will benefit.

While Burkina is rich in primary materials like mangos, cotton, and cassava, and already has once factory producing ethanol, the country has limited infrastructure at its disposal. In light of this, when I wrote about biofuels [FR] on my blog earlier this month, one reader was skeptical about the project's prospects:

Les coûts de production feront que ce carburant serait hors de porté des Burkinabè. Je vie en France actuellement et ici le biocarburant est juste produit par certains agriculteurs disposant de matériels assez mécanisés pour le labour, l'irrigation et les récoltes. Notons qu'ici les fermiers repensent 3% de la pop, ils sont les riches, aussi ils sont subventionnés à l'hectare. Je trouve que souvent il faut bien réfléchir pour parapher certains accords. Si les Burkinabè n'ont pas les moyens pour payer ce carburant parce que trop chers, on ira le vendre ailleurs!!!!

The costs of production will place this fuel out of the Burkinabe people's reach. I'm currently living in France, and here biofuels are produced only be a few farmers who rely on machines for labor, irrigation, and harvesting. Note that here, farmers represent 3% of the population, they are the rich, and they are also subsidized by the hectare. I think we ought to really think before signing certain agreements. If the Burkinabe don't have the means to pay for these biofuels because they are too expensive, they will go and sell them elsewhere!!!!

In addition to this fear of biofuel products being sold abroad, many have expressed concern about the deterioration of land under cultivation.

Another reader wrote:

Pendant qu’on est en train de voir comment subventionner les pays qui gardent intact la nature, chez nous, on signe des protocoles visant a endommager cette dernière . Et le comble, c’est qu’à 100% cela ne profitera qu’a une certaine couche…

Even as we look at how to give assistance to those countries that protect nature, here at home, we sign protocols that aim to harm it. And to top it off, it's 100% certain that this will benefit only a certain stratum…

One reader believes that Burkina Faso's investment in biofuel production while there are still so many problems related to the cultivation and sale of cotton. He also questions the logic underlying this initiative:

Nous sommes (ou étions) gros producteur de coton, et d'or. On a gagné quoi? Que gagnent les pays africains producteurs de pétrole, d'uranium, etc. ? Comme d'habitude et comme de par le passé, seuls les dirigeants au sommet de l'Etat et leurs parrains d'Occident, les impérialistes et leurs suppôts donc, vont se sucrer sur le dos de tous.

We are (or were) major producers of cotton and gold. What did we gain from it? We do African countries producing petroleum, uranium, etc. gain? As always and as it was in the past, only the leaders at the top and their Western patrons, the imperialists and their accomplices, will fatten themselves off the backs of us all.

In order to mobilize public support, meetings were held in Ouagadougou. The most important was the one organized on November 27-29th with the theme, “issues and perspectives on biofuel for Africa.”

The meeting brought together 370 people from 35 countries, as well as multinational firms like Total France, their research centers, and the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) in Ouagadougou. Only the farmers, those who will producing the primary materials for the biofuels, were absent.

Blogger Father Lacour criticizes this oversight:

Une fois encore, les représentants des organisations paysannes n’ont pas été invités, une fois encore, les paysans n’ont pas été invités, eux qui sont les premiers concernés par ce qu’on devrait normalement appeler les agrocarburants, plutôt que les biocarburants parce que c’est l’agriculture qui les produit.

Once again, the representatives of farmers’ organizations were not invited, once again, the farmers were not invited, those who are the most affected by what ought to be called agrofuels, rather than biofuels, because it is agriculture that produces them.

These farmers are excluded from these meetings even though they are the ones who will have to adapt to these new conditions and techniques of production. As Father Lacour writes:

“learning by doing” (apprendre en faisant) tout en espérant que les risques pour les paysans ne dépassent par trop le bénéfice escompté.

learning by doing, hoping that the risks for the farmers do not surpass the expected benefits.

Translated from French by Jennifer Brea

1 comment

  • Stuart F

    On a different note, I found this article http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?p=3225220 listing the greenest cities in the US. This shows that municipalities care about climate change. I guess the general population cares about the environment and global warming. My score on their calculator was 400 but at least I am trying. Here is the link to the website that published the list of cites and where the carbon calculator can be found: http://www.earthlab.com. The test took me like 5 minutes tops, and then maybe another 2 minutes to find the pledges I wanted. Pretty cool application.

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