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Bioenergy project appraisal in sub-Saharan Africa: Sustainability barriers and opportunities in Zambia


  • Ian Duvenage,

  • Ros Taplin,

  • Lindsay Stringer

Ian Duvenage and Ros Taplin are at the Bond University, Department of Sustainability Science, Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture, ueensland, Australia. E-mails: and

Lindsay Stringer is at the University of Leeds, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, Leeds, United Kingdom. E-mail:


Although there is continuing debate surrounding biofuel cultivation (especially in developing nations) in relation to issues of exploitation, land grabbing, poverty alleviation and energy security, there is a lack of empirical evidence to assess how these debates are playing out in practice on the ground. Drawing on political ecology discourse, this paper examines case studies of biofuel production in Zambia and the effects they have on environmental and social sustainability. During April and May 2011, data were collected on two case study projects involving Jatrophacurcas feedstock cultivation in Zambia. Semi-structured interviews were used to ascertain views from affected stakeholders (local farmers, local environmental, social, and agronomic experts, and investors) on the biofuel projects and their environmental and social impacts. The findings suggest that the uneven distribution of costs and benefits are brought about by imbalances in knowledge, access to resources and the allocation of social and political influence (often associated with broader discourses of development), and this provides a likely rationale for a lack of sustainability in biofuel projects. Drawing on these viewpoints, as well as on field observations, this paper outlines the barriers and opportunities linked to Jatrophacurcas project sustainability.