Energy Crops Could Jeopardise Food Production

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By Wezi Tjaronda

WINDHOEK

There are fears that countries will pursue energy crops to reduce carbon emissions produced by fossil fuels at the expense of food crops.
Many countries have put energy crops under experiment but concerns are rife that if they become viable, they may get a direct conflict with food crops.

A scientific officer with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Robert Stefanski, said in Geneva recently, countries should be careful not to replace food crops especially in developing countries where food security is already at stake.

He mentioned jatropha circus as one such crop that should be cultivated with such precautions in mind. The crop is resistant to drought and pests and produces seeds containing up to 40 percent oil. The seeds can be crushed and used in a standard diesel engine while the residue can be processed into biomass to power generation plants.

Namibia has chosen jatropha as her preferred bio-energy plant. Of the other bio-energy crops, such as sunflower, canola and soy, consultants who prepared the roadmap found jatropha was already being planted as hedge in the Caprivi and Kavango regions.

The Kyoto Protocol, through the clean development mechanism, aims to reduce emission of greenhouse gases, which are implicated in global warming and climate change, and to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The renewable fuel sources can play a role in achieving this cause.

Prime Investment Ltd, a Namibian registered company, proposed to establish plantations of jatropha carcus in northern Kavango.
In its environmental impact assessment, the company dispelled misconceptions that it would jeopardise food production.

The EIA said most households were unable to obtain sufficient food for their needs from crop production and relied on cash income. While mahangu production may vary in value between N$30 and N$1ǟ

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