25-06-2008 Press release
Wetlands International is shocked by the decision of the Kenyan government to convert large tracts of the Tana wetlands in Kenya into sugarcane-for-ethanol plantations. This dramatic development confirms the NGO’s recent outlook ‘Biofuels in Africa’, which shows that biofuel production in Africa will lead to loss of wetlands and rainforest.
Therefore, Wetlands International calls upon the Kenyan government to revise its decision to favour sugarcane for ethanol to wetlands conservation. This area is in need of protection, because it is crucial to many animal species like lions, hippos and waterbirds, as well as the livelihoods of local communities.
Crucial link for migratory birds
Furthermore, Tana wetlands form a crucial link for many migratory waterbirds on the route to their winter destinations in the South. These birds are coming from Europe, such as the Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris Ferruginea) and the little stint (Calidris Minuta).
Moreover, thousands of people depend on the Tana wetlands as fishermen or farmers. Herdsmen also require the area for cattle grazing during the dry season. These functions – critical to their livelihoods - will largely disappear if the wetland is converted into a large-scale sugarcane production area.
Trend biofuel production in Africa
Wetlands International presented its report ‘Biofuels in Africa’ at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, May 2008, With an outlook for 2020, this report reveals how especially pristine wetland areas will become victim of large scale biofuel plantations, such as sugarcane and palm oil.
Sugarcane production demands millions of litres of water for every hectare; ethanol production is only feasible and profitable when thousands of hectares can be established around a mill. Both conditions are met hardly anywhere, except in wetlands, especially floodplains.
The report also indicates that biofuel production offers few opportunities to local African smallholders. As a result, rural people are easily marginalised when large scale biofuel plantations are established.
Similar cases also occur in South Benin and in the Mawi Basin, Tanzania.
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