Proponents of “green and clean” fuel have argued that a transition to biofuel could result in significant economic and environmental benefits, including local job creation, and less reliance on fossil fuel and energy imports, and come with minimal negative impacts on the environment. With a dominant focus in the discourse on these purported benefits, little attention has been given to the impacts of land acquisition on the local people whose livelihoods depend on land-based activities. Using a case study of bio-ethanol development in the Chisumbanje communal lands of Zimbabwe, this project assesses the processes and local livelihood implications of biofuel development and considers who is likely to bear the costs.

The Africa Initiative Discussion Paper Series presents policy-relevant, peer-reviewed, field-based research that addresses substantive issues in the areas of conflict resolution, energy, food security, health, migration and climate change. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and advance knowledge on issues relevant to policy makers and opinion leaders in Africa. Papers in this series are written by experienced African and Canadian researchers, and have gone through the grant review process, or, in select cases, are commissioned studies supported by the Africa Initiative research program.