Problems Associated With Large Scale Agrofuel Projects Sociology Essay Example
Problems Associated With Large Scale Agrofuel Projects Sociology Essay Example

Problems Associated With Large Scale Agrofuel Projects Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 15 (3984 words)
  • Published: August 7, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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The quotation mark mentioned above plays a significant role in the numerous problems connected to extensive agrofuel projects. Several researchers, including Borras Jr. et al. (2010, 2011, and 2012), White and Dasgupta (2010), Schoneveld et al. (2011), Tsikata and Yaro (2011), Tandon (2009), and Ngowi et al., have investigated this issue.

Numerous researchers, including Julia and White in 2012, German et al. in 2011, and others, have identified various issues related to the production of large-scale agrofuels. These issues encompass a range of job opportunities that arise from this industry, such as impacts on local support systems and nutrient security, land grabs, access to land and subsequent evictions, as well as environmental degradation. In the Yendi Municipal Assembly of the Northern part in Ghana, the Kpachaa community has experienced these challenges firsthand.

Agrofuels, also known as "biofuels," are defined as organic prim


ary and/or secondary fuels derived from biomass that can be utilized for thermal energy generation through combustion or other technologies (FAO-UWET, 2001). The term "Agrofuel" was coined by the International Peasant Movement La Via Campesina as a preferred alternative to "biofuel," in order to accurately reflect its agricultural-based nature.

The motion raised concerns about the use of the term 'bio' by boosters to falsely portray agrofuels as a 'sustainable' fuel option. 'Bio' now refers to fuel derived from nutrient and oil harvests produced by large-scale agro-industrial procedures. In this paper, agrofuel is used instead of 'bio'-fuel as the focus is on large-scale agrofuel production of Jatropha curcas [2] in Northern Ghana. Over the past two decades, there has been increasing attention and debate on agrofuel within the development discourse. The arguments surrounding agrofuels have become highly

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politicized, with two opposing schools of thought dominating the discourse.

Advocates of agrofuels, including OECD states such as the USA, EU, and China, as well as corporate and financial establishments (Mol 2007, Cotula et al. 2008), believe that agrofuels can address energy, job, climate change, and agricultural and rural development issues.

In contrast, international NGOs like Biofuel Watch UK, Oxfam, ActionAid International, and Friends of the Earth (FOE) oppose agrofuels by highlighting their negative effects.

A third perspective is taken by intergovernmental organizations like the FAO. They see agrofuels as an opportunity but also acknowledge their downsides (White and Dasgupta, 2010: 594).

Due to the optimistic view on agrofuels, many developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa (such as Mali,
Burkina Faso,Ghana,Tanzania,Mozambique) are attracting foreign capital for expanding agrofuel crops like Jatropha curcas.

Advocates argue that developing states have a comparative advantage in agriculture, with large areas of unused or marginal land and suitable climate, as well as cheap labor for agrofuel cultivation (WB-WDR, 2008). They believe that developing agrofuel as agriculture will create jobs and stimulate rural development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Ibid.). According to White and Dasgupta (2010: 596), this idea has attracted the governments of developing states looking for solutions to their agricultural and energy security issues. In a news publication on Ghana Business News online on May 11, 2009, Emmanuel K.

According to Dogbevi, Ghana is believed to have great potential for agrofuel production due to its low cost[3]. This belief has led to significant growth of agrofuels in developing countries, including Ghana. However, there has been an increase in literature questioning this optimistic view and expressing concerns about the global consequences of large-scale agrofuel expansion (White and

Dasgupta 2010, Borras Jr. et al. 2010, 2011, and 2012, Julia and White 2012, Ngowi et al. 2012, Tsikata and Yaro 2011, Williams et al. 2012, Schoneveld et al.).

Various concerns have been raised regarding large-scale agrofuel production, including its impact on nutrient security, the environment, poverty, and support. These concerns have been highlighted by sources such as 2011, German et Al., 2011, FoodSpan, and ActionAid Ghana 2010.

Agrofuels have raised concerns for multiple reasons, including the decline in global food reserves and the increase in food prices. These concerns are justified due to the challenges faced by developing countries' agriculture sectors, which contribute to these issues. One of the main reasons is that agrofuels compete with food production for both land and market share.

In many developing nations, essential staple foods like Maize, soybeans, and cassava play a crucial role. However, these crops are also utilized for oil and ethanol production that is then converted into agrofuels. This dual utilization leads to a rise in their price, worsening hunger problems in these countries.

This paper is concerned with the significant impact of large-scale agrofuels on women's livelihoods in rural areas. The perspectives expressed by these women align with various authors' views on the effects of agrofuel-driven capital expansion on rural communities, particularly women in developing countries where these projects are taking place (See Julia and White 2012; Mutopo and Chiweshe 2012; Ngowi et al. 2012; Rossi and Lambrou 2008; Tandon 2009; Tsikata and Yaro 2011, etc.). Agrofuel projects, similar to other large-scale agro-industrial endeavors, have gendered implications for poverty reduction and livelihoods, affecting both men and women differently.

Women, in particular, are disproportionately affected by large-scale projects due to

their limited access to reliable land, secure land tenure, and customary land rights, especially in African countries (Behrman et al. 2012, ActionAid 2012, FAO-SOFA 2010-11, Razavi 2003, etc). Land is a vital resource for women's livelihoods as it provides essential goods such as food, fresh fish, and fuelwood. Consequently, any changes in land use have an impact on women's livelihoods and often result in changes in family dynamics (Behrman et al. 2012, Rossi and Lambrou 2008, Apusigah 2009). Several authors have discussed how the expansion of agrofuel production is displacing many rural women in developing countries.

This paper examines the impact of large-scale agrofuel production on the livelihoods of women in Kpachaa, Northern Ghana, using a Feminist Political Ecology Perspective. This perspective explores how issues such as poverty, social justice, environmental degradation and preservation are influenced by gender and political factors. It also considers the neoliberalism of nature and the cycles of accumulation, enclosure, and eviction. It is important to not only analyze the gender implications of agrofuels but also to center research on women's experiences and concerns. Therefore, this paper seeks to understand the situation, concerns, experiences, and perspectives of women in Kpachaa and how these intersect with power dynamics and inequalities at local and global levels. Incorporating women's actual experiences and perspectives into critical discussions about agrofuels is crucial.

This paper examines the impact of large-scale agrofuel production on women's livelihoods in Kpachaa, Ghana. It focuses on how local power dynamics and land tenure have allowed global capital to dispossess both men and women in the area. The goal is to contribute to critical discussions on agrofuels and their implications for women in Ghana.


research aims to answer several questions: How has the production of large-scale agrofuels affected women's livelihoods in Kpachaa? What types of displacement or dispossession have occurred, and how have women been affected? What are the consequences of these displacements for women's livelihoods and food security? How do local level politics intersect with national and global politics regarding agrofuels, shaping the rural landscape and impacting women's displacement?

The decision to conduct research in Kpachaa was based on its location within the Yendi Municipal Assembly in Northern Ghana. This community was chosen as it is where the first long-lasting large-scale agrofuel project took place.

The project garnered attention from various NGOs and researchers who have examined the effects of extensive land acquisition on food security and land tenure security in the community. Considering previous research conducted in this area, it was crucial to ascertain the specific impact on women. To comprehend how the introduction of large-scale agrofuel production and changes in land use affect both men and women's livelihoods, a case study approach was employed.

Using an instance survey in research enables a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon being studied (Yin, 2003; 2009). The researcher employed a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to gather data for the instance survey. Quantitative analysis involved utilizing available statistical data pertaining to the research area, such as population size, gender composition, family structure, allocation and utilization of natural resources, and types of cultivated crops. These quantitative data were collected to support the instance study. Additionally, qualitative tools such as key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and direct observation were utilized to explore the realities experienced by both women and men in Kpachaa.

The field

work took place from August 7-26, 2012 and lasted for three weeks. It involved conducting interviews with community members, both male and female. A research assistant aided in conducting the interviews and acted as a translator. The semi-structured questions covered various topics such as sources of support, land ownership and usage (including the process of acquiring land in the community), employment opportunities provided by the project, benefits of the project to individuals, families, and the community as a whole, and strategies for survival. In total, 51 individuals (32 females and 19 males) were interviewed in two different communities.

The text below describes the demographics of the interview participants and the institutions/organizations they were interviewed in. The text also mentions that the project director of an agrofuel company was interviewed to gain insights into agrofuel development in Ghana. In addition to the field research, a literature review was conducted to further understand the connections between corporate capital, rural landscapes, and their impact on women.


Before discussing the challenges faced during the field research, it is important to mention that the research process has been enlightening, stimulating, and educational. For example, I have gained new insights from the women in Kpachaa that I previously overlooked or never considered.

The text discusses different types of trees used for fuel wood and wood coal, as well as various blackberries. The author reflects on how they grew up picking fruits like shea fruits, Mangifera indicas, and blackberries, but were unaware that some blackberries were inedible. They learned this during a conversation with women from Kpachaa, who discussed the trees cleared for a project and their importance. This point will be further explored

in the paper's findings section. Returning to the challenges faced, the author traveled to Ghana for data collection without knowing the exact nature and extent of the challenges in the community. However, some potential challenges were anticipated during the research preparation phase.

Although I was not expecting it, I faced many challenges while working in the field. Firstly, when I arrived in Ghana, President John Evans Attah Mills had passed away. As a result, it was difficult to schedule interviews with government officials or offices for two weeks. Despite spending that time in Accra, the capital city, I had little success and ultimately decided to travel directly to the study area to gather data for my research. Unfortunately, this period coincided with both the Muslim fasting period and the rainy season, which is also the agricultural season.

Despite the difficulty in finding community members for interviews, my original plan of organizing a large community meeting and conducting focus group discussions was hindered. The person who aided me in gaining access to the community informed me that the members were tired of such gatherings due to the overwhelming presence of media, researchers, and NGOs (both foreign and local) since the initiation of the agrofuel project. Consequently, they were no longer interested in being interviewed. Fearing community backlash, he declined to assist me initially but eventually agreed after some persuasion in the local language. With his help, I managed to speak with a few individuals who were willing to participate in one-on-one interviews. In total, I successfully interviewed 22 people from the Kpachaa community - 11 women and 11 men (including 5 individual interviews with men and one focus

group discussion involving 6 men).

The interviews were mainly conducted at the interviewees' locations, while they were engaged in cooking or household tasks. A total of 22 individuals were randomly selected based on their availability and willingness to participate. To ensure impartiality, efforts were made to include as many women and men as possible, including both project employees and those not affiliated with the project. This was done to compare responses from different perspectives and eliminate potential biases. Additionally, obtaining an interview with the regional division of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), a major player in agrofuel development in Ghana, posed unexpected challenges.

The process of reaching the officer in charge was bureaucratic. I was informed that I had to go through the regional manager first, but they were never available when I visited. As a result, my findings are limited and do not include perspectives from many women in Kpachaa and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

Scope and Limitations: This paper focuses on discussions about arguments surrounding Agrofuel, specifically regarding the impact of large-scale agrofuels on local livelihoods, land grabs, and women's access to land for farming purposes in Kpachaa, located in northern Ghana.

The research heavily relies on qualitative information and is not completely representative of all women in Kpachaa. However, the findings from the few women interviewed are supported by other research findings from Boamah 2010, Tsikata and Yaro 2011, Schoneveld et al. 2011, and Williams et al. 2012 in the same country but on different aspects of analysis. This research is also limited to findings from Northern Ghana. Therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to other contexts unless those contexts share

similar features as the study area. Even with this similarity, individuals may still have different experiences, and one's experience of a phenomenon cannot be transferred to another context.

The findings in this paper are specific to the context and situation and do not attempt any generalizations. It is important to conduct further studies in different contexts to understand the impact of large-scale agrofuel projects on women in different scales, spaces, and locations.

Administration of the Paper

This paper is divided into five chapters. The first chapter serves as the introduction. In chapter two, the theoretical framework for the research and discussion on Gender and agrofuel is presented. Chapter three offers an overview and analysis of the project and policy context.

Chapter four presents an in-depth analysis through a case study of the impact of a large-scale agrofuel project on women and men in a rural community in Northern Ghana, whose main source of livelihood is agriculture and the natural resources available to them. The final chapter concludes the paper by stating the purpose of the research and its findings, as well as suggesting areas for further investigation.

Feminist Political Ecology Perspective (FPE)

As mentioned earlier, this paper focuses on how women's livelihoods are affected by various forms of displacement associated with large-scale agrofuel production in Kpachaa, Northern Ghana. FPE examines the gender dimensions of issues such as poverty, social justice, the politics of environmental degradation and conservation, the neoliberalism of nature, and ongoing cycles of accumulation, enclosure, and eviction (Elmhirst 2011: 129).

Research (Brayton, 1997) aims to understand the state of affairs, concerns, experiences, and positions of adult females in Kpachaa and how these intersect with power relations and inequalities at the

local and global levels. This exercise is important to bring the real experiences and perspectives of women at the local level into critical discussions on agrofuels. The field of Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) emerged as a sub-framework within Political Ecology when feminist Geographers began to question the gender dimensions of issues raised in Political Ecology. The framework was developed from these emerging questions through the work of Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, and Wangari in 1996 in their landmark collection titled "Feminist Political Ecology: global issues and local experiences."

FPE (feminist political ecology) focuses on gender as an important variable in shaping access to resources and control over them. It recognizes the interactions between gender, class, caste, race, culture, and ethnicity in determining ecological processes. FPE also examines the struggles of women and men to sustain ecologically feasible livelihoods and opportunities for sustainable development. In their influential work, Rocheleau et al. (1996) identified three common themes across different cultural and ecological contexts: gendered science of survival, gendered environmental rights and responsibilities, and gendered environmental, political, and grassroots activism. They called for a comprehensive analysis of these themes at multiple scales. Since then, many authors have been inspired by their work and expanded on it by exploring issues of gender, nature, and power in various contexts (Hawkins and Ojeda 2011). Although not all of these works explicitly identify as FPE, they fall within its framework through the topics they discuss (Elmhirst 2011). Some examples include collections of articles in the fourth issue of volume 16 of the journal Gender, Work, and Place by O'Reilly et al.

In 2009, various studies such as Razavi (2003) and Agarwal (2001) have examined the topic.

More recent research by Hawkins and Ojeda (2011) focuses on the connection between gender and identities in everyday interactions in different spaces, locations, and scales. They also explore the meanings and understandings about the environment (Hawkins and Ojeda 2011). Building on this, Truelove (2011) discusses water inequalities in urban areas in her article "Re-Conceptualising Water Inequalities in New Delhi India through FPE". She argues that FPE can enhance urban political ecology work by addressing daily practices and micro-politics within communities. Truelove further explains how water inequalities are influenced by daily practices that also shape gender, class, and other social power dynamics (Truelove, 2011: 143-144).

Once again, Sultana (2011) introduces another aspect of emotional geography by arguing that "resource battles and struggles are not only material challenges but emotional ones, which are mediated through bodies, spaces, and emotions" (Sultana, 2011: 163). Essentially, these two authors express the idea that the fight for resources (access and control) is influenced not only by social power dynamics but also by the physical manifestations and emotions of individuals, places, and resources. Another element of Feminist Political Ecology (FPE) is found in the research of Rocheleau et al. (1996), which examines the connections between global, national, and regional politics and the lived experiences of women and men at the local level (global-local linkages). This concept has also been explored by authors in the anthology 'Women and the Politics of Place' edited by Harcourt and Escobar (2002) and by Hawkins (2011), Truelove (2011), etc.

Harcourt and Escobar (2002) discuss the interconnection of people to global processes as both strategic and descriptive, oppressive and potentially transformative. Hawkins (2011) links global processes to local experiences in

her feminist analysis of ethical consumption. She examines a commercial on pampers in North America and how it connects individual consumption choices to development efforts while ignoring environmental degradation, health, and global inequalities. Hawkins argues that such narratives render certain power dynamics invisible while highlighting others. The analysis in this paper emphasizes the struggles over resources, in line with the literature on Feminist Political Ecology (FPE).

The text examines how women's struggle for access and control over land and natural resources is influenced by the complex relationship between societal power at the local level and political dynamics at the national and global levels. This struggle is particularly evident in large-scale agrofuel production, which dispossesses women in various ways.

Literature Review of the Different Debates on Gender and Agrofuels

As mentioned earlier, rising oil prices in the past decade have prompted concern, especially among developed countries like the USA and EU member states, about their future energy security. This has led these countries, as well as emerging economies like Brazil, to advocate for the development of "renewable" energy sources such as agrofuels to meet their future energy needs. Another driver behind the push for "renewable" energy is the increasingly rapid pace of climate change. Proponents, such as the World Bank, view "renewable" energy sources like agrofuels as clean energy alternatives that can help mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as agrofuels emit fewer gases than fossil fuels (World Bank WDR, 2008: 70).

According to the World Bank World Development Report 2008, agrofuels provide "big markets for agribusiness". The report suggests that the development of agrofuels can create new opportunities for agricultural manufacturers, stimulating rural growth and farm incomes.

The report also highlights the comparative advantage of agric-based economies, particularly in sub-Saharan African countries, in terms of natural resources and human capital for agribusiness development (World Bank, 2008: 34). This perspective is embraced by governments of agric-based developing economies, such as Ghana in sub-Saharan Africa. They seek to not only increase foreign exchange earnings and reduce oil imports but also address agricultural challenges and attract rural infrastructure investments. However, the development of agrofuels as a sustainable source of renewable energy faces significant challenges due to associated risks.

Several writers and establishments have disputed the assumptions made in the agrofuel discourse. Dauvergne and Neville (2010) questioned the potential of agrofuels to contribute to energy security, climate change mitigation, and rural development. According to these authors, this potential depends on the inputs required for production, as well as the overall net energy and carbon balances (Dauvergne and Neville, 2010). McCarthy (2010) supports this argument by stating that these factors also depend on geographical aspects, agricultural methods, the extent and type of land use change, as well as the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and technology in production (Ibid). This means that in order for agrofuels to meet the expectations of its main advocates, it would involve large-scale industrial production and the conversion of vast land areas for agrofuel cultivation. However, this would have serious consequences for food security, as evidenced by incidents such as the tortilla riots in Mexico and rice shortages in Thailand, caused by significant increases in staple foods like wheat, rice, and maize (Tandon, 2009: 111).

Furthermore, in addition to concerns about nutrient security, the changes in land usage will also have significant implications for

the rural poor as a result of the "failure of agricultural transformation and ongoing support crises in the countryside in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa" (Tsikata and Yaro, 2011: 4).

Moreover, the question arises: Where are the women in Agrofuel Debates?

Similar to other large-scale agriculture practices, large-scale agrofuel projects also have gendered consequences, particularly for women. Women are responsible for gathering food supplements, water, and firewood for fuel, among other tasks (Rocheleau et al. 1996; Razavi, 2003; Apusigah, 2009; Mutopo, 2011; Behrman et al. 2012; Dockstader 2012). These responsibilities are argued to stem from their regular interaction with the resource base rather than a natural symbiotic relationship with the environment (Schroeder, 1997: 12-13).

The impacts associated with large-scale land acquisitions for agrofuel projects tend to make women more vulnerable. These impacts are also influenced by societal power relationships. Poverty studies from NGOs and UN agencies have extensively documented that women are the most resource poor and neglected socio-economic groups globally (ActionAid, 2012: 6). The report 'From under their feet' by ActionAid in 2012 argues that women produce 80% of household food, yet only control 2% of lands worldwide (Ibid.).

Research shows that changes in land tenure and land use have a negative impact on women's land rights, especially in countries where women rely on male relations for access to land. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan African countries like Ghana (Ibid: 7). Given the vulnerability of many rural poor women, one would expect to find more studies on the expansion of large-scale agrofuels, specifically focusing on the gendered aspects of this development from the beginning. However, this has not been the case until recently. Most of the literature

on agrofuels, originating from international NGOs, United Nations agencies, and some scholarly works (Ewing and Msangi 2009, Findlater et al.), did not address this issue.

Over the past few years, there has been little focus on how large-scale agrofuels impact women, as observed in studies by Holt-Gimenez and Shattuck in 2011, Mol in 2007, McMichael in 2008, Msangi et al. in 2007, and Otero and Jones in 2010. However, this has changed recently with the publication by the FAO in 2008 titled 'Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production, Understanding the Risks to Maximize the Opportunities' written by Andrea Rossi and Yianna Lambrou. Notable writers such as Clancy in 2008, Tandon in 2009, and Arndt et al. have also begun to address this issue.

Julia, White, Mutopo, and others have also examined the gendered aspects of agrofuels (2011, 2012). In 2008, the FAO published a study by Rossi and Lambrou (2008) that focused on the influence of agrofuels on adult females. The study investigated the potential risks that may differ between genders in the production of first-generation liquid 'bio'fuels on a large scale.

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