Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 455–468

Depoliticizing land and water “grabs” in Colombia: the limits of Bonsucro certification for enhancing sustainable biofuel practices


DOI: 10.1007/s10460-014-9509-3

Cite this article as:
Selfa, T., Bain, C. & Moreno, R. Agric Hum Values (2014) 31: 455. doi:10.1007/s10460-014-9509-3


As concerns heighten over links between biomass production and land grabs in the global south, attention is turning to understanding the role of governance of biofuels systems, whereby decision-making and conduct are not solely determined through government regulations but increasingly shaped by non-state actors, including multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI). Launched in 2005, Bonsucro is the principal MSI that focuses on sustainability standards for sugar and sugarcane ethanol production. Bonsucro claims that because it is free from government interference and draws on scientific metrics, their standards transcend localized, political–economic contexts. In this paper, we illustrate how the local context shapes the prospects for Bonsucro sustainably certified biofuel production in relation to land and water grabs. To accomplish this, our case focuses on Colombia, which has used a range of national policy mandates to establish itself as one of the larger producers of agrofuels in Latin America. We draw on interviews with stakeholders in the sugar and ethanol industries, paired with an examination of Bonsucro principles on land rights and water use, to illustrate how the sugar industry is framing their participation in Bonsucro, and the effects of the increasing intensification of sugarcane for ethanol production on land and water access for communities. We find that within the context of Colombia, efforts such as Bonsucro provide a veil of legitimacy and authority to a system that is premised on deeply entrenched historical patterns of inequitable land ownership patterns and access to natural resources.


Multi-stakeholder initiatives Land grabs Bonsucro Certification 



Colombian Sugarcane Growers Association


Cauca Valley Corporation


European Union


Multi-stakeholder initiatives


Colombian Association of Sugarcane Cultivators and Suppliers


Renewable Energy Directive


Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials


Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil


Roundtable on Responsible Soy

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesState University of New YorkSyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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