Burma, biofuels and the foodcrisis

Over at Culture Matters, there is a very interesting post about the complex interconnections between the impending foodcrisis in Burma and the new interest in biofuels, in this case the bitter biodiesel plant called jatropha. Apparently the Burmese junta has ordered farmers to replace rice with jatropha, resulting in the plant (which is suitable for very arid, desert climates) being cultivated all over the country, even in the fertile delta region. 

This is what Australian anthropologist Monique Skidmore had to say in an interview at ABC:


“So people have had to rip up paddy in some places to plant hundreds and hundreds of acres of jatropha and this is a plant that doesn’t grow well, and people do not have the production and distribution facilities to do anything with the product once they get it, and they don’t get much. And of course they’re not being able to cultivate rice in the meantime.

“So it’s an incredibly ridiculous path to embark upon.”


Check it out! 


2 Responses to “Burma, biofuels and the foodcrisis”

  1. 1 Mary Nyuyinwi May 27, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I would like to make a comment and let you know the situation in my country: Cameroon.

    Cameroon is said and known to be a very naturally blessed country with a lot of natural resources and a huge potential for its agricultural production. Statistics show that 70% of the population of Cameroon is agricultural. By implication, food self sufficiency is supposed to be more than a reality in this country. Surprisingly, it is the contrary.

    For the past months, Cameroonians are faced with an increasing rise in the prices of foodstuffs and even a scarcity of the locally produced stuffs. This goes in line with scarcity and the increase in the prices of basic commodities.

    Cameroonians do not know on which foot to dance. Prices are increased by at least 40%. The case of rice is very speaking.
    Studies carried out by a local NGO that works on food sovereignty showed that in each Cameroonian family, rice is eaten about thrice a week and the local production is almost insignificant despite the high potential for its production in Cameroon. This commodity thus simply relies on importation.

    Locally produced items are done on subsistence basis and do not tie up with any governmental policy to promote and support them. Farmers are abandoned to themselves and produce just within their reach. The lack of any government policy to support agriculture results to poor farming techniques leading to soil and environmental destruction. The fact that research institutes are not given much attention, gives no room to improvement because they are either not researched on or if done so, they are not published for farmers to use.
    This leads to high pests and crop disease infection, causing the disappearance or the drop in locally produced items. The little that is produced locally is then not competitive and this facilitates importations which are still cheaper than local products. Local markets are then filled with imported items that have equally disorientated consumers. Local production is the left to the few who can afford to buy or to exporters to buy at high prices to sell on the sub regional market.

    The present world food crisis obviously affects Cameroon very seriously because importations are conditioned by the world situation. The result of all of this is:

    – Drop in feeding habits (from 3 meals to 2 and or 1) per day per family.

    – Increased poverty in families that were already poor, due to increased expenditure on feeding

    – High drop in health conditions because of poor feeding, reducing man power.

    I simply think that if the government does not give a good thought to the present situation, food crisis will be the more devastating case than malaria, because “A HUNGRY MAN IS AN ANGRY MAN”.

  2. 2 aishahland May 27, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Dear Mary, on behalf of Joana (who is offline for a couple of days) I’d like to thank you for your comment. Thanks also for telling it how it is. I agree on the fact that the only remedy is action to be supported by the government. Please keep us updated on the situation in Cameroon. Best regards, Aishah

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