Commercial biofuel land deals & environment and social impact assessments in Africa: Three case studies in Mozambique and Sierra Leone
Van Vlaenderen, Hilde
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The rapid increase in attempts by foreign investors to acquire large tracts of land in Africa for biofuel developments has generated substantial concern about their potential negative impact on the communities living in the targeted areas. This includes concerns about the impact on local residents’ livelihoods, their access to land, natural resources and labour, and their food security. This paper examines three case studies of proposed biofuel developments in Mozambique and Sierra Leone in terms of their social displacement impacts and the extent to which such impacts can be avoided or minimised. The case studies show that even in areas with low population densities and settlements concentrated in villages where it is easier to minimise displacement impacts, livelihood displacement impacts still cannot be entirely avoided due to communal and scattered land use in most rural areas. Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) processes have changed the location, size and boundaries of developments to reduce displacement impacts, but more mitigation measures — such as outgrower schemes and land dedicated to food production — can provide further livelihood restitution and avoid food security impacts. The three biofuel ventures also highlight the influence of tenure security for local land right holders in determining the nature of the land deals and the consultation processes: cases where land leases are made with central government seem to provide fewer incentives for developers to negotiate directly with local communities and provide them with lower levels of compensation.