Matilde’s land, her family’s source of food, was grabbed by a company to grow industrial biofuel for our cars. Matilde Ngoene, smallholder farmer, Mozambique CREDIT: JAMES OATWAY/PANOS/ACTIONAID
Demand Zero Meals Per Gallon Your guide to campaigning on biofuels and hunger
Zero Meals Per Gallon Using industrial biofuels means putting poor people’s food into rich people’s cars – in a world where one billion people are hungry, this is simply wrong. The amount of corn required to fill a 4X4 tank with biofuel would feed a child for a year – that’s a staggering 1,000 meals, or the equivalent of 40 meals in every gallon of biofuel. Continue the fight for a HungerFree world. Help put the brakes on biofuel production by demanding Zero Meals Per Gallon.
What are industrial biofuels? Industrial biofuels are produced from agricultural crops. They are grown on a large – industrial – scale and many of the crops are food stuffs that would otherwise feed people. These include staples like maize, wheat and sugar.
Why are we campaigning? We’ve estimated that current industrial biofuel policies could push 600 million extra people into hunger by 2020, making industrial biofuels one of the main reasons people are not getting the amount of food they need. And if that wasn’t catastrophic enough, there is also strong scientific evidence that industrial biofuels could be even worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace. We know there are real solutions to the climate and energy crises, simple solutions that reduce fuel consumption, such as better funding for public transport, increasing the fuel efficiency of engines and investing in cleaner alternatives to petrol, for example vehicles that run on renewable electricity.
Our daily bread By the end of 2010 two UK ethanol refineries will be burning about one million tonnes of wheat every year to make biofuel for UK petrol. One million tonnes of wheat could make 15 billion pitta breads – enough calories to feed the whole of Kenya for 25 days. Putting wheat into UK cars means that biofuels are directly competing with food – pushing up food prices globally and stopping the world’s poorest people getting enough to eat.
But currently the UK government is ignoring these strategies in favour of industrial biofuels – a dangerous distraction, which will exacerbate both hunger and climate change. It’s time to tell the UK government to put the brakes on biofuel production and get the UK down to Zero Meals Per Gallon.
Biofuels and hunger Large increases in biofuel production in the United States and Europe are the main reason behind the steep rise in global food prices. Don Mitchell, Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Development Prospects Group, 2008.
Industrial biofuels compete with food, making them a major cause of hunger through: 1. Rising food prices During 2008 global food prices rose substantially, causing a world food crisis. Many experts, including some at the World Bank, cited biofuel expansion as the main cause. Current biofuel targets have already made staple foods less affordable for the poorest people, sparking riots across the globe from the Phillippines to India, and from Mexico to Senegal. But this is just the start. Targets are currently being set by the governments of rich countries which will massively increase the amount of land being used for biofuel crops. If all global biofuel targets are met, it is predicted that food prices could rise by up to 76% by 2020. 2. Poor farmers losing land The demand for biofuels is providing an incentive to companies to oust poor farmers from their fertile land, leaving thousands to go hungry. The scale of the current land grab is vast. In just five African countries, 1.1 million hectares have been given over to biofuels – an area the size of Belgium. All of the biofuel produced on these lands is for export, meaning none of it will increase access to energy in developing countries; instead it will be pumped into cars in rich countries.
Who is affected by biofuels? Poor people will suffer as rich countries’ use of industrial biofuel increases and staple food prices rise. Low-income households spend the greatest percentage of their money on food (in some households it can be as much as 80%), meaning food price increases hit the poorest hardest. In addition, it is the land of poor farmers that is being grabbed by biofuel companies, often without consent. The impacts of the biofuel boom will fall heavily on women in particular. When prices rise it is women who reduce their food intake so the rest of the family don’t have to go hungry. ActionAid is not alone in calling for the brakes to be put on industrial biofuel production. People in developing countries are already suffering because of our biofuel use, and they are fighting for food to be prioritised over fuel.
When resources are scarce, women generally prioritise the nutrition of family members above other personal and household issues. Source: UNICEF
Biofuels, climate change and hunger Industrial biofuels are potentially worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace. This is because of: the large amount of nitrous oxides (greenhouse gases that are at least 300 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide) released by the fertiliser necessary for the production of industrial biofuels. land use change – when carbon-rich habitats (such as forests) are destroyed for biofuels, large amounts of greenhouse gases are released.
And climate change is a hunger issue. In some African countries, yields from agriculture that relies on rain are predicted to drop by as much as 50% by 2020 because of climate change. This makes industrial biofuels a massive barrier to ending hunger – not only will they compete with food, but they allow rich countries to avoid some urgent decisions, such as reducing consumption of transport fuels and forcing companies to invest in cleaner technologies. These are the kinds of actions that are needed if we’re to avert climate change, and with it the devastating drop in food production.
Raju Sona’s story Raju is a farmer from India. He used to be able to feed his family with vegetables he grew himself. Then a local company started giving out free jatropha (a plant widely used for biofuel) seeds. Raju gave up his vegetable crop in the belief that jatropha would give him a better income, but come harvest time, the plants produced such low yields that the company was no longer interested in buying the seeds.
“Vegetables are very expensive. Now we can save money with all the things we grow.” Raju Sona, farmer, India
Raju was left with a field full of useless jatropha saplings and no way to produce food for his family. He had to buy vegetables that he normally grows. Raju ripped up the jatropha saplings and returned to food production. Now his family are able to support themselves again.
CREDIT: ATOL LOKE/PANOS/ACTIONAID
Elisa Alimone Mongue’s story
Elisa Alimone Mongue’s Story Elisa’s family smallholding in Mozambique – her Elisa’s family smallholding in Mozambique livelihood and her family’s primary source of food – – her livelihood and her family’s primary was seized by a company to grow industrial biofuels. source of food – was seized by a company to grow industrial biofuels. Elisa used to Elisa used to grow many different crops on her land grow many different crops on her land including maize, millet and pumpkins. The company including maize, millet and pumpkins. did not ask her permission to take the land nor has it The company did not ask her permission given her any compensation. Elisa now has to earn to take the land nor has it given her any money making reed mats, but she doesn’t sell many compensation. Elisa now has to earn and the increase in food prices has seen staples like money making reed mats, but she doesn’t rice more than double in price. sell many and the increase in food prices has seen staples like rice more than double Her family often go hungry. in price. Her family often go hungry.
“I don’t have a farm, I don’t have a garden... I have given up because we don’t have anything to eat.” Elisa Alimone Mongue, smallholder farmer, Mozambique CREDIT: ATOL LOKE/PANOS/ACTIONAID
Take action: put the brakes on biofuels What are we calling for? As the next step in our HungerFree campaign, ActionAid is tackling the driving force behind the rush for biofuels – worldwide, government-set targets aimed at increasing the amount of biofuel used in transport. In the UK, the Department for Transport and the Department for Energy and Climate Change are currently writing a plan to increase the amount of biofuel in our petrol and diesel. By 2020, 10% of all petrol and diesel must come from biofuels. This means car drivers will have no choice but to fill the car with biofuel. This target has been set to meet the government’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy in transport, turning what should be a tool to reduce climate change into an implement of disaster.
ActionAid is calling for the UK government not to set targets that increase the amount of transport energy that comes from industrial biofuels. The UK government should not rush ahead of the science and tie us into using another unsustainable fuel source but should instead find other ways to ensure that future sources of transport fuel are both renewable and sustainable. The government must finalise their plan before June 2010 so it’s vital that you tell them what you think of biofuels as soon as possible. That’s why we are asking you to take action today to demand that the UK government puts the brakes on biofuel production.
How do I explain the campaign? The case against biofuels can be tricky – we ought to know, we’ve been thinking about it a lot! Here’s a few tips on what you might say: Biofuels are made from crops, very often food crops.
Biofuels are bad for climate change – even worse than fossil fuels.
Biofuels cause hunger by pushing up food prices – by 2020, 600 million extra people are likely to go hungry because of biofuels.
We can stop this disaster – we need to make sure the UK government doesn’t set targets to increase the amount of biofuel in our petrol but we only have until June to do this.
Poor farmers in developing countries are having their land taken for biofuel production. In many cases this land had been used for food production.
Sign an action card to show the government you don’t want biofuel in our petrol.
Take action: demand zero meals per gallon What you can do We’ll be campaigning up to June 2010 to make sure the government does not tie the UK into a disastrous biofuel policy. We need 20,000 people to take action – it is your campaigning that will make the difference.
Our Meals Per Gallon pressure gauge will be tracking the impact our campaign is having. To see the latest pressure reading go to www.actionaid.org.uk/biofuels
Here are four actions that you can take against industrial biofuels: 1. Ask your friends and family to take action We need 20,000 people to tell the UK government ‘no to biofuels’. Ask your friends to add their voice to yours. Get them to send off an action card or take our online action: www.actionaid.org.uk/hunger 2. Spread the message by using our stickers Put a sticker on your car or bike and give them to friends to stick on their cars too. You can get more stickers at: www.actionaid.org.uk/biofuels 3. Join the debate We’re asking you to join us online as we debate the future of biofuels. Check our website to find updated biofuel news from bloggers, experts and ActionAid campaigners. Join the debate and help us create a noise online: www.actionaid.org.uk/debate 4. Come to the London Transport Museum On 16 February 2010 experts from all sides of the biofuel debate will battle over this crucial issue. Either join us in person (book a space by emailing email@example.com) or join us online. You can also sign up to our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/actionaidliz to hear what’s being said on the night.
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Demand Zero Meals Per Gallon ls www.actionaid.org.uk/biofue
Check www.actionaid.org.uk/biofuels for other ways to join our Zero Meals Per Gallon campaign all the way up to June – including a letter you can send to your MP asking them to support our demand for Zero Meals Per Gallon.
Stay in touch If you have any questions about the campaign call 01460 23 8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To take action online and for further campaign info visit www.actionaid.org.uk/biofuels Follow our campaign on Twitter at www.twitter.com/actionaidliz
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