Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 993–1012 | Cite as

Towards implementation and achievement of sustainable biofuel development in Africa



Although sustainable bioenergy development in Africa is critically debated, if projects are developed within a credible framework, opportunities for sustainability arguably can arise. This paper presents research on the characteristics of sustainable biofuel projects as provided in the literature and according to expert opinions obtained by way of a survey involving thirty-eight international experts. Participants were selected for their expertise in the fields of environmental, social and economic sustainability relating to biofuels in Africa. The survey results suggest that projects which display a high degree of transparency, incorporate local stakeholder involvement, and ideally include local villagers as partners are more likely to achieve sustainable biofuel production. Experts also indicated that reconciling diverse stakeholder objectives alongside the principles of sustainable development remains an ongoing challenge. A process is recommended for sustainable biofuel development, which attempts to harmonise efficiency, stakeholder interaction and the integration of diverse stakeholder perspectives. To support the process, it is recommended that an advisory/mediating body that acts according to best practice principles would be of great assistance. Such an advisory/mediating body would be conversant with local land, social, economic and environmental conditions, project sustainability and administration, and also advise on biofuel framework educational needs.


Biofuels Africa Sustainable development Implementation and achievement Environment 



We would like to thank international experts for providing the time to participate in the survey and whose contribution has been most insightful to this study.


  1. Afionis, S., & Stringer, L. C. (2012). European union leadership in biofuels regulation: Europe as a normative power? Journal of Cleaner Production doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.03.034. (in press).
  2. Amezaga, J., von Maltitz, G., & Boyes, S. (2010). Assessing the sustainability of bioenergy projects in developing countries. Newcastle: Newcastle University.Google Scholar
  3. Ariza-Montobbio, P., Lele, S., Kallis, G., & Martinez-Alier, J. (2010). The political ecology of Jatropha plantations for biodiesel in Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 875–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arndt, C. (2011). The case of Mozambique. Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen: Development Economics Research Group.Google Scholar
  5. Bass, H. (2011). Ragner Nurske’s development theory: Influences and perceptions. In R. Kattel, J. Kregel & E. Reinert (Eds.), Classical development economics and its relevance today (1st ed., pp. 183–202). London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  6. BEFSCI project (Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators). (2011). A compilation of bioenergy sustainability initiatives (Homepage of Food and Agricultural Organisation) [Online]. Available http://www.fao.org/bioenergy/foodsecurity/befsci/62379/en/. 9 February 2011.
  7. Berquist, D., Cavalet, O., & Rydberg, T. (2012). Participatory emergy synthesis of integrated food and biofuel production: A case study from Brazil. Journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14(2), 167–182.Google Scholar
  8. Binder, C., Feola, G., & Steinberger, J. (2010). Considering the normative, systemic and procedural dimensions in indicator-based sustainability assessments in agriculture. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30(2), 71–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blaikie, P. (1985). The political economy of soil erosion in developing countries. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  10. Borras, S., Jr. (2009). Agrarian change and peasant studies: Changes, continuities and challenges—an introduction. Journal of Peasant Studies, 36(1), 5–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Borras, S., Jr, & Franco, J. (2010). Contemporary discourses and political contestations around pro-poor land policy and land governance. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Borras, S., Jr, McMichael, P., & Scoones, I. (2010). The politics of biofuels, land and agrarian change: Editors’ introduction. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 575–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bringezu, S., Schutz, H., O’Brien, M., Kauppi, L., Howarth, R., & Mcneely, J. (2009). Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing biofuels. Paris: International Panel for Resource Management—United Nations Environment Program.Google Scholar
  14. Bryant, R., & Bailey, S. (1997). Third world political ecology. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Buchholz, T., Luzadis, V., & Volk, T. (2009). Sustainability criteria for bioenergy systems: Results from an expert survey. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(1), 86–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carrington, D., & Valentino, S. (2011). Biofuels boom in Africa as British firms lead rush on land for plantations (Homepage of Guardian), [Online]. Available http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/31/biofuel-plantations-africa-british-firms. 15 December 2011.
  17. Colchester, M., & Ferrari, M. (2007). Making FPIC work: Challenges and prospects for indigenous peoples. Forest Peoples Programme: Moreton-in-Marsh.Google Scholar
  18. Coleman, J. (1988). Organizations and institutions: Sociological and economic approaches to the analysis of social structure. The American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diaz-Chavez, R., Mutimba, S., Watson, H., Rodriguez-Sanchez, S., & Nguer, M. (2010). Mapping food and bioenergy in Africa. A report prepared on behalf of FARA. Accra: Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa.Google Scholar
  20. Doussou-Bodjrenou, J., Mkindee, A., Matongo, M., Pschorn-Strauss, E., & Anderson, T. (2007). Agrofuels in Africa: The impacts on land, food and forests [Internet]. Biodiversity Network. [Cited 20 November 2010]. Available from http://www.africanbiodiversity.org.
  21. Elgahali, L., Clift, R., Sinclair, P., Panoutsou, C., & Bauen, A. (2007). Developing a sustainability framework for the assessment of bioenergy system. Energy Policy, 35(12), 6075–6083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ernsting, A. (2007). Agrofuels in Asia: Fuelling poverty, conflict, deforestation and climate change. Seedling, (July), 2533.Google Scholar
  23. Evans, P. (1995). Embedded autonomy: States and industrial transformation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Fischer, G., Hizsnyik, E., Shah, M., van Velthuizen, H., & Opec fund for International Development. (2009). Biofuels and food security. Vienna: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).Google Scholar
  25. Franco, J., Levidow, L., Fig, D., Goldfarb, L., & Luisa Mendoca, M. (2010). Assumptions in the European Union biofuels policy: Frictions with experiences in Germany, Brazil and Mozambique. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 661–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. GBEP Task Force on Sustainability. (2011). Development of a set of relevant, practical, science-based, voluntary criteria and indicators regarding the sustainability of bioenergy. Rome: Global Bioenergy Partnership.Google Scholar
  27. Gibson, R. (2006). Beyond the pillars: Sustainability assessment as a framework for effective integration of social, economic and ecological considerations in significant decision-making. Journal of Environmetal Assessment Policy and Management, 8(3), 373–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hall, J., Matos, S., Severino, L., & Beltrão, N. (2009). Brazilian biofuels and social exclusion: Established and concentrated ethanol versus emerging and dispersed biodiesel. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(Supplement 1), 77–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haywood, L., & de Wet, B. (2009). Sustainability assessment: A tool for planning for sustainability as a desired outcome for a proposed development. Pretoria: Sustainable Social Ecological Systems Research Group.Google Scholar
  30. Heckett, T., & Aklilu, N. (2008). Agrofuel development in Ethiopia: Rhetoric, reality and recommendations. Addis Ababa: Forum for Environment.Google Scholar
  31. Hope, D., Gries, C., Zhu, W., Fagan, W., Renman, C., Grimm, N., Nelson, A., Martin, C., & Kinzig, A. (2003). Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity, New York. Proceedings of the National Academy Science, 8788–8792.Google Scholar
  32. Janssen, R., Rutz, D., & Diaz-Chavez, R. (2009). Bioenergy policy implementation in Africa. COMPETE policy conference. Lusaka. COMPETE:1–32.Google Scholar
  33. Jutting, J. (2003). Social risk management in developing countries: An economic analysis of community-based insurance schemes. Monograph and post-doctoral thesis: University of Bonn, Bonn.Google Scholar
  34. Lima, B., & Gupta, J. (2009). Biofuel “Governance and International Legal Principles: Is it Equitable and Sustainable?”. Melbourne Journal of International Law, 10(2), 470–499.Google Scholar
  35. Lynd, L., & Woods, J. (2011). Perspective: New hope for Africa. Nature, 474(7352), 20–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matavel, D. (2009). Jatropha! A Socio-economic pitfall for Mozambique. Berne: Alliance Sud.Google Scholar
  37. McMichael, P. (2010). Agrofuels in the food regime. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 609–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mortimer, N. (2011). Life cycle assessment of refined vegetable oil and biodiesel from jatropha grown in Dakatcha Woodlands of Kenya [Homepage of North Energy Associated, Northumberland, UK], [Online]. Available: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/kenyan. November 2011.
  39. Mulugetta, Y. (2009). Evaluating the economics of biodiesel in Africa. Renewable Sustainable Energy Review, 13(6), 1592–1598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mwiinga, M. (2010). Behind independent minds [Internet]. Africa News. [cited 30 October 2010]. Available from www.africanews.com.
  41. New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). (2010). Economic and corporate governance [Internet]. African Union. [cited 10 November 2010]. Available from http://www.nepad.org/.
  42. Nhantumbo, I., & Salomão, A. (2010). Biofuels, land access and rural livelihoods in Mozambique. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  43. North, D. (1990). Institutions, institutional change and economic performance (1st ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. O’connell, D. (2009). Sustainable production energy [Internet]. CSIRO. [cited 29 May 2011]. Available from http://www.csiro.com/science/Sustainable-Biomass.
  45. O’Laughlin, B. (2008). Governing capital? Corporate social responsibility and the limits of regulation. Development Morales and Change, 39(6), 945–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Paul, H., Ernsting, A., Semino, S., Gura, S., & Lorch, A. (2009). EcoNexus, Biofuelwatch. In Conference of the parties, COP15, of the United Nations framework convention on climate changeNOAHfriends of the earth Denmark and the development fund Norway, Copenhagen, 7–18 December 2009.Google Scholar
  47. Peet, R., & Watts, M. (1996). Liberation ecologies: Environment, development, social movements. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pereira, T. (2012). The transition to a sustainable society: A new social contract. Journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14(2), 273–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Putman, R., Leonardi, R., & Nanetti, R. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Robbins, P. (2004). Political ecology: A critical introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  51. Robbins, R. (2011). Policy: Fuelling politics. Nature, 474(7352), 22–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shiva, V. (2008). Soil not oil—climate change, peak oil and food insecurity (1st ed.). North Melbourne: Spinnefex Press.Google Scholar
  53. Sinclair, T. (2009). Taking measure of biofuel limits. American Scientist, 97(5), 400–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Snell, S. (2007). The journey to a biomass future [Internet]. BBI Bioenergy Australasia. [cited 30 July 2011]. Available from http://www.biofuelsaustralasia.com.au.
  55. Uddin, N., Taplin, R., & Yu, X. (2010). Towards a sustainable energy future—exploring current barriers and potential solutions in Thailand. Journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability, 12, 63–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. UNFCCC. (1992). Reporting on LULUCF activities under the Kyoto Protocol [Internet]. UNFCCC. [cited 15 June 2011]. Available from http://unfccc.int/methods_and_science/lulucf/items/1084.php.
  57. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (1997). Governance for sustainable human development. New York: A UNDP Policy Document.Google Scholar
  58. Utting, P., & Clapp, J. (2008). Corporate accountability and sustainable development. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Vermeulen, S., & Cotula, L. (2010a). Over the heads of local people: Consultation, consent, and recompense in large-scale land deals for biofuels projects in Africa. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 899–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vermeulen, S., & Cotula, L. (2010b). Making the most of agricultural investment: A survey of business models that provide opportunities for smallholders. IIED/FAO/IFAD/SDC: London/Rome/Berne.Google Scholar
  61. von Maltitz, G. (2008). Biofuels in Africais Africa different [Internet]. CSIR-Natural Resources and Environment. Available from www.globalcarbonproject.org/…/von%20Maltitz_2008_ESSP%20Bioenergy_Africa.ppt [cited 2 December 2010].
  62. von Maltitz, G., & Stafford, W. (2011). Assessing opportunities and constraints for biofuel development in sub-Saharan Africa. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research.Google Scholar
  63. White, B., & Dasgupta, A. (2010). Agrofuels capitalism: A view from political economy. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(4), 593–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. World Bank. (1999). World Development Report 1998–1999: Knowledge for Development. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Duvenage
    • 1
  • Ros Taplin
    • 2
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Sustainability Science, Institute of Sustainable Development and ArchitectureBond UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  2. 2.The Australian Centre for Sustainable Mining PracticesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations