Sugarcane grown for biofuels has proved very lucrative for Brazil, but will its prospective cultivation in Ghana’s dry climate be equally successful? This project produced the world’s first study of the impact of climate change on biofuels. Its combined modelling approach shows that, provided sufficient irrigation water is available, sugarcane cultivation in the Volta River region is sustainable at around three quarters of benchmark yields from Brazil – even if CO2 concentrations are doubled and temperatures rise by 4°C. It also shows that two proposed dams in the area would provide sufficient water for optimal irrigation in most, but not all, years. Damming the river would also benefit local communities by providing perennial water supply and reducing the risk of flash floods. Wealth distribution models are currently investigating whether the profits from sugarcane production can alleviate poverty, while remaining sustainable. This project has provided a case study for how poor communities can exploit their ecosystem services to attract major industrial investment.
ESPA. Impact Stories: Sugar rush. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA), UK (2013) 2 pp.