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Local Biofuel Production for Rural Electrification

Paper Reviewed
Hoffmann, H., Uckert, G., Reif, C., Graef, F. and Sieber, S. 2015. Local biofuel production for rural electrification potentially promotes development but threatens food security in Laela, Western Tanzania. Regional Environmental Change 15: 1181-1190.

In confronting this potential shift in energy supply, Hoffmann et al. (2015) describe how they "investigated the local potential of biofuel-based electricity supplies and their potential impact on food security in a rural setting," where they "assessed the potential for the replacement of energy from fossil fuels with that from oils from locally produced sunflowers and groundnuts in existing combustion engines that are used to run generators in the village of Laela, in the Rukwa region of Western Tanzania." And what did they find by so doing?

The five German scientists say their research shows that "previous estimates of the potential of African rural communities to become energy self-sufficient with biofuels are potentially overly optimistic, especially if different income groups within the society are considered," for they note that "food security is currently not achieved for all income groups" and that "replacing food crops with crops producing biofuel will most likely result in increased hunger even if climate change is not considered."

Consequently, Hoffmann et al. conclude that "rural electrification using locally produced vegetable oil as a replacement for fossil fuels is unlikely to contribute towards human well-being in Laela." And if the switch fails there, there is reason to believe it will fail elsewhere as well.

Posted 22 January 2016