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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Notes to broadcasters on controversial sugarcane project:

Large-scale development projects are frequently at odds with environmental interests, and sometimes clash with traditional land use. In the case of the 20,000-hectare sugarcane plantation planned by the Mumias Sugar Company and the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority, a number of issues made the project particularly controversial. Since Farm Radio Weekly focuses on small scale farmers, we concentrated on the concerns of herders who use the Tana River Delta for dry season grazing.

However, the most organized and vocal opponents of the project have been environmental groups. A coalition known as Nature Kenya commissioned a report to challenge the cost/benefit analysis used to justify the project. While proponents maintain that the project will create 20,000 jobs and build local infrastructure, the Nature Kenya report argues that developers overestimated profits, ignored fees for water use and pollution, and disregarded loss of income from wildlife tourists.

The fact that the project will produce both sugar and the biofuel ethanol has been another point of contention. The production of crops for biofuel has become increasingly controversial. While some farmers hope to collect good profits by selling crops for biofuel production, opponents fear that projects such as the sugarcane plantation in the Tana River Delta threaten food production and livelihoods.

To read more about the planned Tana River Delta sugarcane plantation, and the controversy that surrounds it, visit:
– Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority: http://www.regional-dev.go.ke/tarda/history.htm
-National Environment Management Authority of Kenya: http://www.nema.go.ke/about.html
-Study commissioned by Nature Kenya on the economic valuation of the project: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/tana_tcm9-188706.pdf
-Editorial published by Business Daily in Nairobi, by Paul Matiku, Executive Director of Nature Kenya: http://www.bdafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8584&Itemid=5821

You may also wish to refer to these past Farm Radio Weekly articles, which look at how some farmers and farmers’ groups have viewed the demand for biofuels:
“The promise and potential perils of biofuels” (Issue#3, December 2007)
“Campaign for biodiesel intensifies but farmers remain cautious” (Issue#7, January 2008)

Here are a couple of ideas for follow-up news stories in your area:
1) Pastoralists coping with change
-What challenges threaten traditional grazing grounds used by local herders (for example, land degradation, negotiating land use with neighbouring farmers, pastures overtaken by developers)?
-What strategies have the herders employed to maintain their livelihoods (for example, rehabilitating land, finding new pastures, negotiating with farmers or developers, seeking alternative income sources, improving animal health, etc)?
2) Farmers considering biofuel production
-What do farmers in your area think about selling crops for biofuel production?
-If a biofuel processing plant exists or is planned for your area, how do farmers who supply the plant plan to maintain their food security while also producing crops for the plant?
-Are there small companies or farmer groups in your area that produce biofuels for local use? What role does locally-produced biofuel play in local crop production?

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