Workers on a jatropha pilot project in the Dakatcha Woodlands, Kenya
Photo: Piers Benatar/Panos Pictures/ActionAid
Three months after my first visit, I’m back in the Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya’s coast region.
Here, I’m seeing the dirty side of EU policies – one that EU officials sat in their comfy offices back in Brussels deny exists.
Back in 2009, EU leaders agreed a policy under which 20% of the EU’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2020 – with an additional 10% target for the transport sector.
Most countries have chosen biofuels to meet the majority of this target but they don’t have enough land in their own countries to grow them.
This is when situations like Dakatcha occur, where a community of over 20,000 people face eviction from their land to make way for a massive 50,000 hectare jatropha plantation.
I met a group of community members opposing the project as it will mean they lose their homes and land. They told me that the local council responsible for administering the land on their behalf didn’t consult them on the project.
Instead, they are faced with losing everything, all to grow a supposedly green fuel – that a recent study showed would produce up to 6 times more carbon emissions than normal fossil fuels – much of which will be exported to Europe.
On the second day of my trip, I visited a local primary school that will be destroyed if the plantation goes ahead. Imagine my surprise when I see a big sign announcing the construction and equipping of 4 new classrooms, 10 pit latrines, along with the supply and delivery of 30 tables, 60 benches and 4 teachers tables and chairs.
Who paid for it all? Yes, the European Union!
It is difficult to see how this fits in with the EU’s development objectives and is above all an astonishing waste of tax payers’ money.
As things currently stand, the plantation is pending final approval from the Kenyan Environment Ministry. But we think that it should not be allowed to go ahead.
We are working with local partners in Dakatcha to oppose the plantation and at the EU level to remove biofuels targets from the EU’s renewable energy policy.
We don’t think the EU’s energy needs should take priority over the local community’s right to live in the Dakatcha Woodlands and farm their own land as they have done for hundreds of years. Unless changed, the EU’s policy will continue to cause massive land grabs across Africa.