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Symposium 2009

Solution for Bioenergy and Land Use in Developing Countries

The Challenge

Food security and promoting modern uses of biomass as a source of energy are two key goals in developing countries. Are these conflicting interests impossible to reconcile or two ends of a common st ...

Food security and promoting modern uses of biomass as a source of energy are two key goals in developing countries. Are these conflicting interests impossible to reconcile or two ends of a common strategy?

Biomass is the most important source of energy in many developing countries, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa.

Investment in bioenergy production in developing countries must integrate local farmers closely.

To reap the benefits from agricultural FDI, investors need to engage local farmers heavily in their operations and carefully take account of local conditions.

Experience shows that it is vital for investors to have a long-term perspective, because low yields are likely to undermine any hope for quick profits.

Working closely with local farmers is easier in a small-scale setting, a fact that speaks against building large corporations and in favor of alternative institutional settings such as cooperatives. Looser forms of cooperation on a contract basis may also be a promising way of linking foreign processers and traders with local production.

Crop choice is largely dependent on the institutional setting and economic environment. The production of jatropha-based fuels is especially suitable for small farmers in developing countries because it can be combined well with food production, also on a subsistence level, and is very robust to unfavorable conditions.

High yield crops like sugar cane are suitable only for large corporations, which can produce on an industrial scale, especially in emerging or developed economies.

Well-organized smallholders can compete with large-scale agro-industry corporations on the world market, if they are efficiently organized. There is ample scope for increasing local energy supply capacities. Using local products for local supply of energy in developing countries could kill two birds with one stone, promoting rural development and providing outlets for local producers of bioenergy.

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