Biofuels: Could the South benefit?

Briefing papers
March 2009
Henri Leturque and Steve Wiggins

This Briefing Paper finds that the production of biofuels to meet Northern targets will mean small increases in poverty and in prices for some food staples, but it also presents opportunities for domestic biofuels industries in the South. It argues for the promotion of socio-environmental standards to protect the rights of the poor to land and freedom from exploitation.

The Paper examines claims that increased production of biofuels contributed to the food price crisis of 2008. It finds that, while this is partly true, it is only part of the picture. The opportunities presented by biofuels for poor farmers in the south, in terms of income and employment, have been, to some extent, overlooked. The paper calls for aid and trade policies to be adapted to stimulate these opportunities and protect the environment for poor farmers and rural workers. It recommends that northern countries should reduce barriers to biofuel imports, regardless of the country of origin. Donors should support the development of Southern biofuel industries though funding for a comprehensive range of institutional, commercial and technical developments. Finally, the implementation of socio-environmental standards across the sector should be promoted though inclusive processes, such as decentralised roundtables, to ensure the ownership of key stakeholders.

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