Environmental experts have called on government to embark more on food production rather than the production of plants used for bio-fuel manufacture in the country.
The environmental experts’ concerns came barely a week after an international agency, Maplecroft, rated Zimbabwe one of the top 10 hunger-prone countries in the world.
Shamiso Mtisi, an environmental lawyer with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) and Henry Chigama, Communications and Advocacy Officer with Livelihood Community and Environmental Development, yesterday said the growing of sugar cane and maize crops with the aim of extracting oils for bio-fuel when a country faces starvation in some regions did not make any sense.
“The planting of crops for bio-fuel can increase the risk of food insecurity in the sense that land resources that are supposed to be used for production of food crops are used for production of bio-oils,” said Mtisi. “We have to embark on what is called ‘plant choice’, which enables us to choose the crops that need more funding and that reduce the risk of hunger.”
Last week Zimbabwe was ranked within the top 10 countries said to be at risk of food shortages as a result of extreme weather conditions, high rates of poverty and failing infrastructure.
Mtisi said some crops were economically viable and were likely to earn foreign currency for the country.
“For instance, if the production of jatropha is more pronounced than food production that can cause food insecurity. What I am saying is that plants such as jatropha should be grown in marginal areas, which are not earmarked for agricultural production,” Mtisi said.
He said commercial farming was a threat to food security because once farmers recognised that jatropha realised better earnings than maize, they would start growing it instead of growing food crops.
Chigama also said: “Whenever we talk of the production of food compared to the production of fuel, we should put food first. As a country, we can always import fuel from other countries, but we should not encourage the importation of food stuffs from other countries to protect ourselves from consumption of GMOs.”
He said instead of extracting bio-fuel from food crops like maize and sugarcane, emphasis should be put production of more food crops.