4 million ha requested for biofuel production in Tanzania
By Beatrice Philemon
At least 4 million hectares of land have so far been requested for biofuel production in Tanzania especially for jatropha, sugar cane and palm oil, it has been revealed.
A research carried out by Emmanuel Sulle and Fred Nelson both from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based in London shows that, out of the area only 640,000 ha have so far been allocated and of these, only 100,000 ha have been granted formal rights of occupancy.
Apart from that some firms are proposing biofuel projects involving initial investments of up to USD1bn or several billions dollars over the next 10-20 years.
According to the researchers, the land obtained or in the process of being obtained by biofuel firms is village land that is not permanently settled but is used for various economic activities.
“Much of the land lies in the coastal areas like Bagamoyo, Rufiji, Kilwa and Kisarawe districts and most of it is Miombo woodland with patches of coastal forest and thickets and is generally used for forest-based economic activities, including charcoal production and harvesting products such as traditional medicines, mushrooms, fuelwood, and building materials,” the researchers reveal.
Also the Tanzanian and foreign investors have been promoting this surge in biofuel production, although the government has also delayed some projects while the National Biofuel Task Force works to complete formal guidelines (due to be launched this month) for biofuel investments.
The research findings show that biofuel production in Tanzania has the potential to provide a substitute for costly oil imports (currently standing at USD1.3-1.6bn per year) of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings.
Biofuel also, according to the researchers, has the potential to provide a new source of agricultural income and economic growth in rural areas and a source of improvements in local infrastructure and broader development.
It indicates that although many biofuel investments involve large plantations, biofuel production can also be carried out by smallholder’s farmers as well as through outgrowers or local contracted farmer arrangements.
Meanwhile, the government will soon start reviewing the legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks to identify existing gaps so that it can formulate a new policy and legislation that will govern the sustainable development of liquid biofuel industry in the country.
Head of Communications in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Aloyce Tesha, told The Guardian yesterday that the review would also help the government to determine which aspects will be retained, revised or dropped altogether for the development of the industry.
There is need to conduct review in all the biofuel related legislations because development of the industry involves many sectors, including agriculture, wildlife, forestry, land, environment and minerals.
He said “we need to review all the regulations that touch those sectors because we don’t want to come up with a new policy or law that will have an effect on them”.
“To meet those initiatives the ministry is looking for consultants from Dar es salaam and other parts of the country to do the review,” he said, adding, “it has already asked those interested to show interest—and today is the deadline.”
Tesha said the output of the review would provide indication to the government on what should be done in terms of developing a new policy or amendment of the existing legislation or both.
“We need them to support us in this context because to formulate a new policy is a long process and as a ministry we have to review all the regulations before formulating a new policy or law to ensure the sustainability of the biofuel sector,” he noted.
Although we plan to do it, both foreign and local investors eager to invest in sector, the Ministry has a Biofuel One Stop Centre which provides information and guidance on biofuel investment.
The core function of the centre is to monitoring biofuel investment and development, endorsement, coordination and act as a source of information.
He said the ministry will soon start distributing the guideline for public consumptions.
‘This month we intend to create a total of 15,000 soft and hard copies of biofuel guidelines and distribute them all over the country free of charge. Besides, we are going to put them in our website so that investors and other people can access them easily,” he said.
Among those, 5000 will be in English version while the remaining 10,000 will be in Kiswahili, he said.
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