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Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Production in Africa

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Bioenergy for Sustainable Development in Africa

Abstract

Although total bioethanol production in Africa in 2006 was less than 500 million litres, the potential is considered high. South Africa and East Africa alone are estimated to have an annual potential of 7.3 and 1.3 billion litres, respectively. In addition, there is intense interest in biodiesel with large-scale projects being developed across the continent. The land considered for biofuels is significant, estimated at 5.5 million hectares, some of which will be located in fragile ecosystems and in ecologically sensitive environments. In Mali, Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia and Madagascar, up to 2.5 million hectares of land has already been allocated to foreign investors for biofuel production. The motivating policy goals for biofuels production and the high degree of biodiversity and diverse climatic conditions notwithstanding, increased production, different agricultural practices especially on highly degraded land due to long-term agricultural mismanagement portend key environmental issues associated with land requirements and farming systems, conversion technologies and scale of operation. Impacts include destruction of habitats and biodiversity, deforestation, and declining water quantity and quality. Whilst these impacts may not be apparent in Africa, they present important researchable questions for planning as Africa gears for increased participation in the international biofuels markets. Tools to define and assess areas suitable for sustainable biofuels production exist, and should be used by governments to include biofuels into an overall energy, climate, land-use, water and agricultural strategy. This shall benefit society, the economy and the environment as a whole.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Blue-water is made of 38.8% of total precipitation and is equivalent to the natural water resources collected in rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. This water is available for withdrawal (1.5% for direct human use) before it evaporates (1.3%) or reaches the ocean (36%).

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Correspondence to Kingiri Senelwa .

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Senelwa, K., Etiégni, L., Osano, O., Balozi, K., Imo, M. (2012). Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Production in Africa. In: Janssen, R., Rutz, D. (eds) Bioenergy for Sustainable Development in Africa. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2181-4_20

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