There now exists voluminous evidence demonstrating the various harms of the supposed green attributes of biofuel production or as it should be better known, agrofuel.
Large-scale land acquisitions are justified through assertions that only “marginal,” “idle,” or “unused” areas will be allocated to biofuel production. Yet, it has been exposed that land is flippantly deemed marginal if it is not utilized in a neoliberal sense (exploited for commercial profit).
In Mozambique, consistent with other African countries, most lands classified as idle actually are being used, but in more traditional ways. Further to this, it is often the most vulnerable of groups that rely on these lands to grow crops and graze cattle. The biofuels industry thus legitimizes and greenwashes acts of land-grabbing, to the detriment of some of the most marginalised in society. Massive tracts of land are handed to corporations, causing entire communities to be displaced, leading to food insecurity, resource deprivation, social polarization, and political instability.
The displacement process of ancestral agricultural land in many cultures has been labelled “accumulation by dispossession.” Biofuel projects are publicized as positively contributing to consumption of local goods and services, income, employment, productivity, and technological transfer. The extent that job creation is overestimated and/or overplayed, has been exemplified by one project in Mozambique which promised 2,600 jobs, yet created fewer than 40 full-time positions. The capital-intensity of corporate, mass-scale biofuel production means that many of Africa’s investor hotspots are unable to organically absorb labor expelled from the land’s original use, creating societies of so-called “surplus people.” Where job creation does materialize, it is often seasonal, unreliable, involves lower wages and poor conditions. The “lucky ones” will find themselves in, through their subjection to wage labor relations and production requirements, subordinate. Land tenure historically tells us that the likelihood of communities economically benefiting from these opportunities is limited.
Financial elites enhance their control over global resources, transforming socio-ecological elements with deep-seated cultural and symbolic value, into one-dimensional commodities defined by exchange value only.