Biofuels, land access and rural livelihoods in Tanzania

During the past several years, biofuels in rich countries have come to be regarded as an important option for reducing consumption of petroleum, which is a main policy goal as a result of recent high oil prices, energy security concerns, and global climate change. The use and development of alternative sources of energy are increasingly encouraged in western countries, and private and public sources of financial support for biofuels development have increased greatly. For African countries, this is leading to growing interest from western and Asian private investors in biofuels projects, as well as growing support from development partners for incorporating biofuels into government policies and development plans. For African countries which are non-oil producers, biofuel production has the potential to provide a substitute for costly oil imports which are one of the major uses of foreign exchange and sources of inflation in African economies, and to provide a new source of agricultural income in rural areas. Tanzania is one of the African countries which have seen a rapid increase in biofuel production and investment proposals during the past several years. The purpose of this report is to describe existing patterns of biofuel development and crop cultivation in Tanzanian rural areas in order to improve the understanding of how these various potential threats and opportunities from biofuels expansion are playing out in reality.

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Community-based adaptation to climate change

This special issue of Participatory Learning and Action focuses on recent approaches to climate change adaptation which are community-based and participatory, building on the priorities, knowledge, and capacities of local people. It discusses how community-based approaches to climate change have emerged, and the similarities and differences between CBA and other participatory development and disaster risk reduction approaches. It highlights innovative participatory methods which are developing to help communities analyse the causes and effects of climate change, integrate scientific and community knowledge of climate change, and plan adaptation measures. Whilst CBA is a relatively new field, some lessons and challenges are beginning to emerge, including how to integrate disaster risk reduction, livelihoods and climate change adaptation work, climate change knowledge gaps, issues around the type and quality of participation, and the need for policies and institutions that support CBA.

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Biofuels in Africa: growing small-scale opportunities

Global demand for climate-friendly transport fuels is driving vast commercial biofuels projects in developing countries. At the opposite end of the spectrum is small-scale bioenergy production. This offers a way for the poor to meet their energy needs and diversify their livelihoods without compromising food security or environmental integrity. Governments hope that it will be possible to combine the advantages of both large- and small-scale production of biofuels to generate energy security and GDP at the national level, while opening up local opportunities. In Africa, most governments are keen to attract foreign direct investment, and see big business as a strategic means of scaling up rural development. But there is a middle way. By encouraging business models that bridge large and small enterprise, African governments could show that commercial competition can go hand in hand with a range of real local benefits.

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