Boeing, South African Airways Support Farmers to Grow Sustainable Biofuel Crops

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Poverty and hunger in South Africa are inextricably linked to the plight of smallholder farmers, who produce most of the continent’s food, but struggle with unproductive soil, unreliable water supplies, low-quality seeds, and scarce markets for their crops. The country is often described as a country of dualities, with first-world and third-world scenarios occurring side-by-side and agriculture is no different, with both commercial farming on a grand scale and smallholder and subsistence farming co-existing. Taking all three into account, nearly 20 per cent of all households in South Africa (2.9 million) are ‘agricultural households’, according to latest census of 2011.

Boeing [NYSE:BA] has launched an initiative with South African Airways (SAA) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) to create opportunities for “smallhold” farmers in Southern Africa to grow crops that produce sustainable fuels. This is a program that builds on a global effort by Boeing, RSB and other partners to help farmers with small plots of land gain access to markets for sustainable biofuels and biomaterials.

In the months ahead, Boeing and RSB will work with Southern African investors to create pilot programs to build knowledge and skills among groups of farmers who want to certify their crops as sustainable. In the long term, as Southern Africa gains capacity in this area, more farmers will be positioned to tap into demand for biofuel feed-stocks certified to provide socio-economic value to communities without adverse impact to food supplies, fresh water or land use.

A sustainable aviation biofuel industry presents a chance for this smallhold farming community to pursue economic development opportunities that would positively impact their livelihood. Certifying small farmers is the best way to ensure sustainable biofuels that not only reduce carbon emissions, but also improves the livelihoods of rural communities. This initiative follows the announcement made in October 2013 that Boeing and SAA would collaborate to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. It is also very similar to efforts by Boeing and RSB to expand biofuel crop opportunities for small farmers in Southeast Asia.

Boeing will work with partners from across the region to identify how they can come together to help small farmers improve their production and income. This is part of Boeing's efforts to build better communities worldwide and is working to ensure positive outcomes for the environment, and crucially for the people of Southern Africa. When produced sustainably, aviation biofuel emits 50 to 80 percent lower carbon emissions through its lifecycle, compared to petroleum fuel. Globally, more than 1,500 passenger flights using biofuel have been conducted since the fuel was approved.

Photo Credit: Boeing