Bukari Sadiq Nyari, a Research Consultant with the Actionaid Ghana, a Non-governmental organization on Tuesday called for the formulation of a more comprehensive policy framework to guide the production of biofuel in Ghana.
He said current absence of a national policy to guide the production of biofuel in the country could lead to a major threat on food security, the environment, water resources, human rights and land, as producers may flout lay down regulations aimed at protecting the rights of land owners and communities in potential areas of cultivation.
Speaking at a validation workshop of a research he had conducted on the impact of Biofuel production in Ghana, Mr Nyari said, there was currently there was only a draft document that lacked legal backing and it was important that Ghana does not loose sight of the negative implications of biofuel production, which in most cases outweighed the positive impacts.
Mr Nyari said the national policy should involve the views of all major stakeholders, including the local farmers, land owners as well as traditional authorities and urged civil society organizations to set up agenda that would help raise the issue to gain national importance.
He explained that the research was intended to ensure that the issue of biofuel does not impact negatively on food security, the environment, look at the land situation and consider the issue of job creation, with corresponding wage payments, to ensure that the rights of farmers were not abused.
He said as a new phenomenon, there were very limited empirical evidence on biofuel production world-wide, therefore its impact on food security could not be readily stated, but there were clear evidence of farmers selling off their farm lands for the production of biofuel, which was a great cause for alarm.
"Again it was found out during the research that the process of production was foreign driven with lots of foreign interests, therefore producers mobilize every resource in terms of labour, land and other resources including water, to enable them to meet the high foreign demand for their products, leaving the local people with nothing to depend on.
He complained about continuous loss of land by small holder farmers as the plantation system gained grounds, especially in places in the Northern regions, where companies had cleared vast hectares of Shea and Dawadawa farms, a major source of livelihood for especially women, and replace them with plantations for biofuel production.
He also cited situations where common grazing fields for livestock had been traded for sugarcane plantations for biofuel production, leading to persistent conflicts among such communities.
Mr Nyari said looking at the trends of biofuel production in Ghana, there was a great cause for worry as there was clear indication of a high possibility of diversion from food cultivation to the sale of farm lands for such activities, if not well regulated.
Expansion of biofuel farms into critical carbon sinks such as marshy fields deprived areas of good vegetation, resulting in negative implication on the environment.
He said continuous use of dangerous agro-chemicals poses great danger to the environment, as water bodies are polluted, making it dangerous for domestic use.
He called for critical measures to be put in place to avoid situations of near enslavement of workers in plantations, as had been reported in other countries.
Mr Nyari called for the collaboration of all agencies, institutions and organizations who were working individually on biofuel projects in the country to help develop the biofuel policy that would serve as a guide to producers and also protect both the environment against abuse and safeguard the nation's food security.
Mr David Eli, Chairman, Food Security Advocacy Network (FoodSPAN), Ghana said there were pressures coming from foreigners into Ghana in recent times as far as biofuel production was concerned, saying those pressures could seduce some farmers to sell off their lands for the attractive prices that those potential investors normally offer them.
He said Actionaid Ghana, in collaboration with FoodSPAN would in the next two years run a biofuel programme which would operate the risk and benefits of farmers in the country.
He said the programme would, among other things educate farmers to gain more understanding of the impact of biofuel production and their rights to full compensation of their lands and also encourage them to insist on a safe environment.