Angola has been riven by conflict and it’s more than three decades since the government subsided sugar cane production, but now a 30,000 hectare area of land is to be planted with sugar cane in a dual attempt to establish a biofuel industry and to rebuild the poor agricultural sector which suffered after years of conflict.
Oil rich but food poor
Angola’s economy has been largely dependent on oil and diamonds since the civil war ended in 2002. Now the government aims to recreate some farming sectors. The country used to produce sugar, but for many years the entire sugar consumption of Angola has been imported. Now, in an attempt to decentralise industry away from Luanda, to boost farming and to create new jobs, the sugar cane project is taking shape.
It’s hoped the plantation will produce 280,000 tonnes of sugar from its own processing plant, and that the waste will be used, along with the ethanol harvested from the cane residue, to produce around 217 megawatts a year of electricity.
Foreign investment fears
While this is a multi-layered project, the tendency of African nations to invest in non-food crop is worrying the FAO which says that private and foreign ownership of large tracts of African land could destabilise local communities who will be deprived of access to water, food and other natural resources. The company managing the project, Biocom, is a three way partnership between Brazil’s Odebrecht, Angola’s Damer, and Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company. African governments need support to build the agricultural infrastructure that will allow them to become food secure, but partnership processes like this one are often viewed with suspicion by local people who fear that they will lose their land, or that the crops will be grown or processed in ways that have been outlawed in the developed world.
Sugar cane courtesy of Cristobal Alvarado Minic at Flickr under a creative commons license