Biofuel potential and FAO’s estimates of available land: The case of Tanzania
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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While there exists under-utilized lands in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the drive towards transforming huge areas of land to biofuel plantations must be reviewed critically. Both the facts that much of these lands are presently covered with forests or classified as wetlands, having a high carbon storage capacity and that these lands are used by local communities for their survival, must be acknowledged. The article analyzes the reasons why public authorities, academics and non-governmental organizations operate with very high estimates on available lands for agriculture in Tanzania, more specifically 550 km2 or almost two thirds of its territory. A figure which does not take into account the competing uses of the land, such as livestock or harvesting from the forest, or the need to preserve forests and other fragile ecosystems and areas under conservation, must be considered as highly problematic. Both this figure and other, much lower figures, originate from FAO. Even if subsequent FAO reports reiterate that this high figure should be used with caution, the article builds an argument to call upon FAO to explicitly denounce the use of this high figure, as it is not appropriate to apply it as a basis for planning agricultural expansion in Tanzania.