In Sub-Saharan Africa, now dubbed the ‘Green OPEC’ of the global bioenergy economy, biofuels have been hailed as a ‘new profitability frontier’ that will provide ‘win-win’ outcomes and deliver development to poor communities. Yet, in an era of economic recession and soaring food prices, their ‘sustainability’ has been at the centre of controversy. This paper focuses on the case of Sierra Leone, where in 2008, a Swiss bioenergy company ushered in the largest foreign direct investment since the end of the country's civil war. Although recently set back by the catastrophic impacts of the Ebola crisis, there continues to be much support for the government's strategy to secure foreign direct investment in biofuels production in agriculturally rich regions of the country. Bioenergy proponents believe that such investments will transform rural areas, in light of the fact that Sierra Leone has over the last decade been consistently ranked as one of the poorest in the world, facing food insecurity, high unemployment and entrenched poverty. But land access and control remain central to debates around biofuels and development, particularly for poor rural people living in project areas. This paper explores the perceptions of a wide range of project stakeholders, many of whom have differing interpretations of what biofuel sustainability entails. The paper concludes by reflecting on the implications this may have for the present post-Ebola environment, where evolving policy discussions on land investment and ‘green’ development continue to assume a key part of the government's recovery trajectory.
- Green grabs
- Sierra Leone
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law