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  • » 06/25/2008, 00.00

    EAST TIMOR

    Biofuels to increase poverty among Timorese



    According to a report by Oxfam, growing crops for biofuel will remove land from food production and push up prices. In East Timor the government is prepared to turn over a sixth of the country’s arable land to biofuel crops.
    Dili (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government of East Timor has come under fire over its decision to turn over 100,000 hectares or a sixth of the country’s arable land to a US$ 100 million ethanol project by an Indonesian company, GTLeste Biotech. The reason is that the replacement of traditional fuels with biofuels has dragged more millions people worldwide into poverty, this according to a report by the Oxfam aid agency.

    Under the terms of the agreement, GTLeste Biotech is granted a 50-year lease over “unproductive land” with an option for another 50 years.

    The government is touting the move as a major potential source of foreign cash that could generate more than 2,000 jobs.

    The foreign company plans to grow sugar cane and other plants to produce ethanol.

    But East Timor’s main opposition party has complained that the plan was made with little public consultation, arguing that the land in question cannot be unproductive if there are plans to grow sugar cane. Furthermore, it stressed that increasing food production is more important and that creating 2,000 jobs is not much for 100,000 hectares.

    “We have learned from other countries that sugar cane plantations will have negative impacts on agriculture and farmers’' lives. Over 80 per cent of Timorese are farmers, they live on agriculture, so the land is important for them,” said Maximus Tahu, from development watchdog La'o Hamutuk. “Our concern is that the project will contribute to the destruction of land fertility.”

    In its report Oxfam accuses biofuel-oriented farming of removing land valuable for growing food. This in turn has contributed to the current food price hike, pushing an additional 30 million people into poverty.

    The report's author, Oxfam's biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.

    “If the fuel value for a crop exceeds its food value, then it will be used for fuel instead,” he said. The net result is that food supplies will be reduced and prices pushed up.

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    See also

    16/10/2008 EAST TIMOR
    East Timorese go hungry for at least five months of the year
    As the international community celebrates World Food Day, the island nation is in the midst of another food crisis. Oxfam Australia sounds the alarm. Children are the most affected with chronic malnutrition rates that in some districts reach 90 per cent.

    30/04/2008 INDONESIA – EAST TIMOR
    Ramos-Horta apologises to Indonesia, studies possible military ‘co-operation”
    In his visit to Jakarta East Timor prime minister apologies on behalf of his president who had accused Indonesia of involvement in the attack against him in February. The visit is also meant to vet the possibility of military co-operation between the two countries, something which the international community views with concern.

    19/07/2008 INDONESIA - EAST TIMOR
    East Timor and Indonesia promote a future of friendship
    On July 15, the two countries signed an agreement intended to overcome the crimes and violence of the past. Relief expressed by retired general Wiranto, former head of the army, among those most responsible for the massacres of 1999.

    21/12/2005 east timor - indonesia
    East Timor: 183,000 killed under Indonesian rule

    An investigation identifies by name the victims of the human rights abuses, as well as those who carried them out. The abuses described by the report include collective executions, torture and the forced removal of people from their homes.



    10/03/2005 INDONESIA - EAST TIMOR
    Joint Truth and Friendship Commission set up
    The Commission's mandate is to find the 'truth' about the 1999 violence but it cannot prosecute. The United Nations and the Catholic Church remain opposed. Human rights activists say that justice won't be done for the victims.



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