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Producing Biofuels in Low-Income Countries: An Integrated Environmental and Economic Assessment for Tanzania


  • James Thurlow

    () (International Food Policy Research Institute
    United Nations University - World Institute for Development Economics Research)

  • Giacomo Branca

    () (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO))

  • Erika Felix

    () (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO))

  • Irini Maltsoglou

    () (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO))

  • Luis E. Rincón

    () (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO))


Abstract This paper jointly evaluates the greenhouse gas emissions and economic impacts from producing biofuels in Tanzania. Sequentially-linked models capture natural resource constraints; emissions from land use change; economywide growth linkages; and household poverty. Results indicate that there are economic incentives to convert unused lands to sugarcane-ethanol production, but only grasslands (not forests) have a reasonable carbon payback period. There are also strong socioeconomic reasons to involve smallholders in feedstock production in order to reduce rural poverty, especially since our results indicate that biofuels have little effect on food production. Yet smallholders require more land than large-scale plantations and so face more binding natural resource and emissions constraints. Overall, environmental constraints alter the socioeconomically optimal biofuel strategy for Tanzania by limiting potential poverty reduction. Unlike previous studies, our integrated assessment suggests that a mixed farming system with greater emphasis on large-scale plantations is more appropriate for producing sugarcane-ethanol in Tanzania.

Suggested Citation

  • James Thurlow & Giacomo Branca & Erika Felix & Irini Maltsoglou & Luis E. Rincón, 2016. "Producing Biofuels in Low-Income Countries: An Integrated Environmental and Economic Assessment for Tanzania," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 64(2), pages 153-171, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:64:y:2016:i:2:d:10.1007_s10640-014-9863-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-014-9863-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Franziska Schuenemann & James Thurlow & Manfred Zeller, 2017. "Leveling the field for biofuels: comparing the economic and environmental impacts of biofuel and other export crops in Malawi," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 301-315, May.
    2. Gasparatos, Alexandros & Doll, Christopher N.H. & Esteban, Miguel & Ahmed, Abubakari & Olang, Tabitha A., 2017. "Renewable energy and biodiversity: Implications for transitioning to a Green Economy," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 161-184.


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