Biofuels as a Development Strategy for Rural Africa: A Case Study from Sierra Leone

  • Amanda Hickey, M.R.P. 2017
  • Class

    CRP 8906 M.R.P. Exit Project: Thesis-Writing
  • Instructor

    Stephan Schmidt

Global food price increases in 2007 and 2008 spurred investment in agricultural land in the developing world. While some observers celebrated this as an influx of foreign direct investment, others expressed concern about potential harm to the local community's land and livelihoods. International institutions reacted by producing a variety of voluntary guidelines to discipline land-based investments, aimed at preventing corporate abuses without discouraging private sector engagement. Hickey's research asks: do project evaluation tools and investment guidelines effectively regulate foreign land investments?

Using the case of Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone (ABSL), she analyzed discourses from project stakeholders to investigate how evaluations applied to biofuels investments are shaping local realities in the absence of bottom-up rural planning and how alternative approaches might create stronger economic arguments for such projects and minimize harm to local communities. Accounts from project stakeholders suggest that evaluation mechanisms are used with a high degree of malleability that may favor investors over truthful social and environmental assessment. Additionally, there is evidence that the high cost of adherence to the most stringent ethical standards would make profitability within a reasonable time frame nearly impossible. This has serious implications for involving public finance in such schemes.

This thesis was awarded the 2018 Peter B. Andrews Memorial Thesis Prize for the best thesis prepared for the degree of master of regional planning. The prize was established by Mrs. Peter B. Andrews and Dr. George C. Andrews in memory of Peter B. Andrews (B.Arch. '55, M.R.P. '57).

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