Developing sustainable Pro-poor biofuels in the Mekong region and Nepal: A holistic approach looking at smallholder benefits from an economic, social and environmental point of view

Shepley, Steven (2009) Developing sustainable Pro-poor biofuels in the Mekong region and Nepal: A holistic approach looking at smallholder benefits from an economic, social and environmental point of view : Netherlands Development Organisation

Author Shepley, Steven
Title of report Developing sustainable Pro-poor biofuels in the Mekong region and Nepal: A holistic approach looking at smallholder benefits from an economic, social and environmental point of view
Editor Gebbie, L.
Schell, M.
Publication date 2009
Publisher Netherlands Development Organisation
Language eng
Subjects B Economic Development
05 Environmental Sciences
Abstract/Summary Biofuels have attracted strong interest in developed countries as a potential solution to the problems of fluctuating fossil fuel prices, desired energy security and the need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Developing countries are initiating biofuel programs for the same reasons, plus the potential export earnings that could be achieved by using marginal land not available in developed countries. In theory, a thriving biofuel industry could deliver a range of economic, environmental and social benefits. However, the public media and industry journals around the world have been portraying biofuel developments as not necessarily environmentally friendly or beneficial for poor communities. Much of this has been based on the experiences in specific countries and economies, e.g.: North America (corn-based ethanol), Brazil (sugar cane based ethanol) and Malaysia (oil palm based biodiesel). This study explored the issues of biofuel development specific to Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Vietnam and Nepal. The study aimed to assess the potential for biofuels to improve the situation of poor smallholders in the target countries, without compromising food security and sustainable environmental management. The study evaluated existing initiatives as well as the potential for a biofuels sector in each of the four countries. In particular, case studies were produced of biofuel projects involving smallholders in each of the target countries. The potential role that SNV and WWF could play was then analyzed based on the benefits and risks identified. This report consists of the following sections: Chapter 1 describes the background and aims of the study. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the region, current government policies related to the biofuels sector, present initiatives and stakeholders involved and a brief introduction to smallholder farmers in the region. Chapter 3 presents case studies from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Nepal and an analysis of the different biofuel feedstocks which are being grown or could be grown in the target countries. Chapter 4 analyzes the “hot topics” or the controversial issues considered to be highly relevant to the biofuels sector in the region: Food versus Fuel, Local versus export markets; the local government context; social and environmental impacts. Chapter 5 suggests possible intervention points for SNV and WWF including development of an institutional framework for the biofuels sector, environmentally and sociably sustainable biofuel markets, and knowledge and capacity development. SNV-WWF 7 Biofuel in the Mekong Region and Nepal One of the main findings of this study is that developers of large-scale agricultural crops face a number of common factors in each of the target countries, including issues of low governance and the difficulty of enforcing supply contracts with many individual farmers. The study presents an alternative model, based on community-level feedstock cultivation, fuel oil production and consumption. This model potentially solves some of the problems of large scale contract farming and could offer greater poverty reduction. This should lead to improvements in household incomes and livelihood opportunities by promoting energy self-sufficiency for participating smallholder farmers. The study proposes intervention options for the development of sustainable biofuel markets based on this community model. The study did not aim to promote specific biofuel feedstocks from the large number of biofuel crops being used around the world. However, some elements of the analysis and discussion relied on characteristics of a specific crop. For example, Jatropha is particularly well-suited to a community production model because it is already grown in each of the countries for other reasons (e.g.; fencing), and small-scale processing for on-site use is quite feasible. However, readers should also note that a common criticism of Jatropha is that relatively little is known about the scientific and agronomic details of the plant. Detailed and lengthy research is needed to develop any wild species into a reliable commercial crop. Cassava and sugarcane, when produced sustainably, also show good potential as smallholder feedstocks for biofuel processing. It is foreseen that these feedstocks production are more feasible in countries with more advanced biofuel sectors such as Vietnam. The study proposes a number of interventions that SNV and / or WWF could make in order to increase the poverty-reduction and environmental benefits of biofuel production in the region. These are presented in this report for further discussion and development. The recommendations include developing a community-based model of feedstock production, trialing an ‘inclusive business’ approach, and that any biofuel production in the region should be guided by sustainability guidelines such as those developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

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Created: Fri, 18 Feb 2011, 16:18:32 EST by Dr Leigh Gebbie on behalf of Aust Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology