A land suitability assessment for sugarcane cultivation in Angola : bioenergy implications.
Ackbar, Leena S.
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Bio-energy is a source of clean, renewable energy and is seen as a promising endeavor in mitigating and abating climate change. Its use brings various social, environmental and economic benefits and particularly for Africa, bio-energy offers opportunities to improve energy security and reduce dependence on foreign exchange earnings, which would bring Africa’s poor closer to a secure energy future. A predominant source of bio-energy supply is in the form of specific bio-energy crops, of which sugarcane, sweet sorghum and maize are examples. This study focused on the cultivation of sugarcane for bio-energy purposes and aimed to delimit areas suitable for cane cultivation in Angola. Sugarcane was selected as the bio-energy feedstock due to its variety of by-products which includes bio-ethanol for gasoline blending and bagasse for electricity co-generation. Due to its high agricultural productivity, sugarcane was the favoured bio-energy feedstock. Angola was selected as the study area due to its large areas of non-forest agricultural land which affords significant capacity for bio-energy production. Geographic Information Systems was used as the key tool in identifying areas suitable for sugarcane cultivation. As this study serves to promote social, economic and environmental sustainability, areas which are currently under food production, protected areas as well as areas of biological significance were filtered out from the study area. The areas identified following this step was an indication of areas which are potentially available and suitable to grow sugarcane without environmental constraints. However, in order to determine the viability of establishing sugarcane farms at the areas identified, a further selection process was conducted, considering the non-biophysical factors influencing sugarcane production. These included proximity to roads, transport infrastructure, areas greater than 10 000 hectares and population data. This inspection resulted in three areas being selected as potentially suitable for sugarcane cultivation. The selected areas cover 0.9% of the study area, covering 10 614 km2 of land. Although this may be a small percentage of the study area, potentially suitable areas are concentrated in eight provinces in the south, central and northern regions. In addition, as this study focused on irrigated agriculture, slope and proximity to rivers were analysed as these are the two main considerations influencing irrigation at the selected areas. Results indicate that Angola’s irrigation potential is largely unexploited and due to the vast network of rivers flowing through the country, irrigated agriculture appears encouraging. An analysis of Angola’s transport infrastructure highlights concern over the poor condition of roads which may be an impediment in establishing sugarcane farms at the suggested areas. However, processing capacity at each of the selected areas appears encouraging as each of the selected areas has the potential to house a minimum of three mills in its manufacturing phase. Furthermore, the large population base at each of the selected areas, a low HIV prevalence rate and an unemployment level of 50%, indicates a great likelihood of available workforce for each of the selected areas. These findings suggest that Angola has a considerable capacity for agricultural expansion, especially into bio-energy which is a promising endeavour in uplifting the social welfare of its citizens as well as a sound financial and development option contributing to the sustainable development of the country. Several recommendations have emanated from the results obtained in the study of which includes the encouragement of establishing international co-operations between Angola, the North and Brazil in order to bring scientific, technical and agronomic expertise into the country for bio energy development.