A Preliminary Assessment of the Social and Environmental Implications of Agrofuels Development in Ethiopia and the Need for Social and Environmental Standards

Course ID
Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA)
Alebachew Adem Nurye

Interest around agrofuels at the international level has exploded over the past few years. The increased interest in agrofuels has been fuelled not only by the rising price of oil and the volatility of the market, but also with regional instabilities and the strained political relationships between oil exporting countries and the West. In addition, several African and other developing countries have engaged in agrofuels development for domestic consumptions as well as export. Ethiopia, meanwhile, is attempting to position itself in the dynamics around agrofuels with a particular concern about maintaining a balance between food and energy security and supporting sustainable development in the country. This position is motivated by the country’s strong demographic growth, the urgent need for the improvement of access to energy and, more broadly, by the need for reducing poverty and achieving economic growth.However, much of the shift toward the development of agrofuels in Ethiopia is occurring without careful consideration of the social, economic, and environmental implications of such systems. The good intentions of the government as stipulated in the biofuel strategy document gives due recognition and special attention to food security, community participation and the protection of agricultural and forest lands, biodiversity and local populations. The main issue is that agrofuels development, if targeted at degraded or marginal lands, and designed with appropriate social, economic and environmental safeguards, and in consultation with affected communities, could provide benefits in the form of land rehabilitation, generation of local employment and improved income and social development. However, improved planning and law enforcement is absolutely essential to ensure biofuel development does not take place at the expense of farming and pastoral communities and the grazing areas and forestlands these communities depend on for their livelihoods and socio-cultural manifestations.Thus, it is important to revisit the limited experiences Ethiopia went through in the development of agrofuels so as to avoid the social, economic and environmental impacts of ongoing biofuel (agro-fuel) projects and make appropriate corrections and preparations for the proper implementation of the strategy. However, current progress in the production of energy crops call for Ethiopia to learn from the experiences of other African and Latin American countries and from previous experiences within the country. This will help in the development of a holistic view of agrofuels based on policy and production techniques which takes into account the multifaceted effects of biofuel production.The current production of biofuels inputs in Ethiopia is not well understood and coordinated. There is urgent need for new levels of cooperation across a wide range of disciplines to help decision makers in the realm of biofuels to best evaluate the local, regional, and global impacts of their actions. On the other hand, the country’s limited experience so far is evidence of the gap between the biofuel strategy and on-the-ground implementation. Good coordination and understanding between federal and regional organs, careful monitoring of implementation practices and harmonization of the interests of various stakeholders is crucial. There is also need for understanding the potential gender-differentiated risks of agrofuels production and including them in the biofuel strategy document. This would also ensure the consistency of the biofuel strategy with other important policy objectives, such as sustainable rural development, gender equality, and adaptation to climate change, strengthening the potential synergies – and reducing the risk of trade-offs – between them. In order to achieve the stated objectives, Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEAs) of projects need to be considered as a prerequisite for land allocation and project implementation with focus in the future on small-scale productions on carefully selected areas to avoid land use conflicts, displacements and forest destructions

Corporate Author: Getnet Alemun & Ethiopian Economic Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute
Publisher: Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA)
ISBN/ISSN: 978-99944-54-15-0
Primary Descriptors: Agrofuels Development

Secondary Descriptor: Environment – Fuel

Geographic Descriptors: Ethiopia
Cataloge Date: 02/27/2013
Broad Subject heading: Social sector development
Call Number: 330.963 PRO 2010
Serial Key Title: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy
Publication catagory: International Conference
Content type: EEA Publication
Volume: II
Publication date: 2013-05-27 23:10:00
Forum or Discussion date: 2013-02-27 15:09:20
Place of publication: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Type of material: Book
Current frequency: Annualy
Author: Alebachew Adem Nurye