Case Study: Senegal

biofuels senegal case study

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Why is Senegal important to this conversation?

Senegal is home to more than 13 million people and has no domestic oil supply. As a result, this small country imports and consumes between 33,000 and 35,000 barrels of foreign oil daily in order to provide energy for its citizens. In recent years, Senegal’s dependence on imported oil has increased as is reflected by its increased oil imports and its decreased biomass usage. In 1994 biomass accounted for 56% of Senegal’s energy consumption. By 2005, that number dropped to only 35%. It is assumed that imported oil compensated for that difference.

Senegal’s energy stability is largely dependent on global oil prices as a result of the fact that the country spends enormous sums to import energy. In 2005, roughly 55% of Senegal’s expenditures on imports were spent on oil. As a result, price fluctuations in the global energy market have a profound impact on Senegal’s ability to purchase oil for its transportation and industrial sectors, which consume most of the oil imports, as well as for domestic uses. Senegal’s vulnerability to oil price fluctuations became exceedingly obvious in 2006 and 2007 when Senegal suffered widespread blackouts as a result of rising oil prices. Many believe that when oil prices rose, Senegal was unable to afford to import enough oil to provide adequate national energy resources.

Biofuels could be an attractive option for Senegal because they could enable the country to decrease its dependence on foreign oil, a huge source of financial and energy instability. The former Senegalese Minister of Agriculture, Farba Senghor, stated during his time as Minister that biofuels would help diversify Senegal’s energy sector while reducing the money spent on oil imports and protecting the environment. He stated that he hoped Senegal would eventually become a net energy producer rather than consumer. The Ministry of Agriculture also hopes that biofuels will improve the standard of living for citizens by providing more electricity and creating more jobs. The Senegalese population is in need of employment opportunities as is showcased by a 2001 estimate that indicated that 54% of the Senegalese population lives below the poverty line and by a 2007 estimate that reported that 48% of the population was unemployed due to the limited size of Senegal’s agricultural and industrial sectors. Biofuel production could improve the lives of the Senegalese and help stem the rapid flood of emigrants leaving the country in search of employment.

Updates from the Biofuel Sector

Bioethanol and biodiesel production is minimal. Bioethanol production has slowed to a halt due to absence of national demand, lack of policy support, and the need for technological advances. Moreover, the Senegalese government has banned exporting biofuels, despite foreign demand. Though small private farmers produce biodiesel from jatropha, currently there is no large-scale production. Among a number of constraints, farming technology is inefficient and produces low-yields.

What are the biofuel options in Senegal?

Recent UN research found that a wide range of biofuel feedstocks already exist in Senegal. However, it appears that Jatropha and molasses from sugarcane have been singled out as the prime feedstock candidates to fuel Senegal’s biodiesel and bioethanol industries. Jatropha is an attractive biodiesel feedstock in Senegal for many of the same reasons it is in other nations seeking to expand their biodiesel industries. Jatropha is expected to provide Senegal with more energy security especially for individuals in rural regions that are off the centralized energy grid. Jatropha is a desirable feedstock because it can grow on marginal land with minimal water, which means that Jatropha cultivation requires limited cropland and water resources. Experts hope that these characteristics will limit biodiesel production’s impact on food security because resources will not have to be diverted away from food production in order to grow Jatropha. Additionally, Jatropha is an attractive option because it produces seeds, which yield large amounts of high quality oil for an estimated 30 years. Outside of its contribution to energy security, Jatropha may provide additional societal benefits. Some researchers say that because Jatropha is poisonous to animals it can be used to protect other agricultural crops from predation. If Jatropha is planted around or interspersed with other crops, it could keep those crops from falling prey to animals. Planting Jatropha in this manner enables farmers to reap the economic benefits of Jatropha cultivation while also ensuring economic returns on non-Jatropha crops by protecting them from animals. Researchers also claim that Jatropha cultivation can help increase employment opportunities for rural women. Jatropha seed collection and processing is suspected to be a work intensive process, which could transform the job market in rural areas.

It should be noted that Jatropha cultivation still has many unknowns. Jatropha is fairly new to domestication and thus there are still questions of its maximum productivity, toxicity, and variation between sub-types. As a result, Jatropha cultivation might not meet all expectations.

Molasses from sugarcane is the feedstock under strong consideration in Senegal for bioethanol production. Some hope that ethanol could be the future fuel of the transportation and domestic sectors. Bioethanol is expected to be able to compete with current transportation fuels. However, research shows that subsidies or tax exemptions could aid in this transition. It will be harder to make bioethanol competitive in the domestic sector. The UNF reported that bioethanol could compete with butane as a domestic fuel if bioethanol was subsidized or subsidies for butane were voided. However, the report concluded that it is unlikely that bioethanol could ever compete with wood or charcoal as a domestic fuel. At this point, the Senegalese government hasn’t invested directly in bioethanol production but private companies have.

Debate: Food vs. Fuel

In 2003 it was estimated that 23% of the Senegalese population, nearly 2.2 million people, were undernourished. However, since 2005 the situation has become direr as domestic non-food agricultural production has increased and total domestic food production has decreased. As a result, Senegal has become more food insecure and has been forced to import more of its food. Roughly 60% of Senegal’s food is imported which leaves Senegal highly dependent on foreign producers to feed its growing population.

In recent years, weather, global market trends, and government actions have acted to aggravate Senegal’s existing food insecurity, forcing Senegalese politicians to consider new ways to raise domestic food agricultural output. The food riots of 2007 and 2008 gave clear signs that the food situation in Senegal had gone from bad to worse. Weather played a role in Senegal’s decreased food security because in 2007 the weather in western Africa was more erratic than usual. The rainy season came late, causing flash-flooding. The rainy season then ended earlier than usual. This irregular weather pattern contributed to decreased domestic agricultural output, which only increased the pressure to import more food to feed the population. Simultaneously, the global price of food rose which increased the financial burden Senegal was forced to bear to import enough food to meet demand. Lastly, many experts indicate that food insecurity issues were further compounded by recent trends in government action that unintentionally deincentivized agricultural production. Over the past few years, the Senegalese government stopped selling and supplying seeds, providing loan opportunities, and maintaining price guarantees in the agricultural sectors. These policy shifts may have contributed to decreased agricultural output, which further exacerbated existing food insecurity.

Based on the current state of Senegal’s food security, Senegalese decision makers must consider how domestic biofuel production will affect food production and food security. Senegal has nearly 19 million ha of land. However, it’s estimated that only a small quantity of that land, 7-12%, is arable and anywhere between 2 and 50% is already under cultivation. Based on these numbers, it remains questionable how well Senegal’s land could support a large biofuel industry without decreasing food security by diverting land or resources away from food production and toward fuel production. However, Macoumba Diouf, director of Senegal’s Agricultural Research Institute, among others, claim that biofuels don’t have to interfere with food security if Jatropha is used.

Jatropha is capable of growing on marginal, less productive land, thus it does not have to compete with food production for arable land. However, there are dissenting opinions that suggest that Jatropha could still lead to food vs. fuel problems. Although Jatropha would not necessarily compete for land resources, it could divert labor, technological, or water resources from food production.

International biofuel production may also have serious impacts on Senegal’s food security. In 2007 it was reported that EU nations used 2.85 million ha of land to cultivate biofuel feedstocks. It is unclear how much of that land was formerly used for food production. Expansive biofuel policies in the EU and the United States are suspected to result in increased global food prices such as those 40% price spikes that occurred between 2007 and 2008. Crops important to the Senegalese diet such as maize, wheat, sugar, oil, and cassava experienced the greatest price increases. If global food prices continue to increase as a result of foreign biofuel production, Senegal will find itself with diminished buying power and serious food security problems.

How many and who in Senegal would benefit?

It is hoped that biofuels will alleviate poverty and increase the quality of life of the rural poor. However, at this point, it is remains to be seen who will really benefit from a strong Senegalese biofuel agenda and how far these benefits will reach. A wide range of speculations has been made regarding the impact biofuel production will have on the Senegalese population. On one hand, there is great optimism that Jatropha will provide employment opportunities for the rural poor, particularly for women. Jatropha production is a work intensive process and rural women could be most suited to take advantage of these new job opportunities. Other feedstock crops could also provide additional employment opportunities if farmers undertake multicropping, intercropping, or crop cascade schemes which not only has been seen to improve efficiency, pest control, weed control, and soil quality but is also thought to increase employment demands because the crops need maintenance all year long due to their different schedules. Opponents of biofuels are less optimistic of the benefits of biofuels and more concerned with the unintended consequences biofuel production might entail. Many worry that women and families will actually suffer from biofuel production if large quantities of land are converted to biofuel production. Senegalese women derive income and nutrition from collecting firewood, nuts, and other forest products from uncultivated land. If this land is converted to biofuel production, many would suffer actually lose income, employment, and food security rather than gain it.

Policy Environment

Since 2006, the Senegalese government has created significant public policy in an effort to revitalize Senegalese agriculture and more specifically to grow Senegal’s biofuel production industry. The broadest reaching campaign is the Retour Vers l’Agriculture (REVA) program, which aims to expand Senegal’s shrinking agricultural sector by developing agricultural infrastructure and by improving agricultural training and technology. In 2006, the Senegalese government took an important step toward developing its biofuel industry by establishing the National Bioenergy Strategy. This plan aims to develop Jatropha for biodiesel production and sugarcane for ethanol production. Under this plan, Senegal established a national technical committee to steer the project as well as appointed the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research in charge of monitoring biodiesel and bioethanol production. The specifics of the Strategy mainly focus on the ways Senegal can develop its biodiesel industry. The goal is to plant a total of 320,000 ha of Jatropha by 2012. Each of 321 rural communities are supposed to plant 1000 ha of Jatropha seedlings provided by the government. Thus far over 250 million seedlings have been distributed among the rural villages. Estimates project that if everything goes as planned, Senegal will produce a total of 1.1 billion liters of refined biodiesel by 2012. This quantity is expected to account for 45-55% of Senegal’s annual oil imports. These are the Senegalese government’s projections. However, it’s important to recognize that there remains a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding these numbers.

One key aspect of Senegal’s biofuels policies is that they emphasize producing biofuels from start to finish in Senegal. In one interview, Christian Sina Diatta, Senegal’s Minister of Biofuels and Renewable Energy, underscored that Senegal would build the infrastructure and factories necessary to produce biofuels in country. He did not want Senegal to solely export raw materials. Senegal’s biofuels policies also seeks to experiment with different feedstocks such as castor oil plants and sunflowers in eastern and southern Senegal in order to better understand their potential and economic feasibility.

Senegal has also engaged in a variety of transnational agreement in order to promote domestic biofuel production. In 2006, President Wade of Senegal helped create the Pan-African Non-Petroleum Producers Association, an organization that many call green OPEC. This group of allied nations is meant to help alleviate the African continent’s dependence on imported oil by encouraging biofuel production. Senegal has also entered into agreements that contribute directly to the Senegal’s ability to scale up its biofuel industry. In 2006, Brazil, India, and Senegal signed a cooperation agreement to promote the development of Senegal’s biofuel production capabilities. Brazil will contribute scientific and technological information while India intends to provide the capital to fuel the biofuel ventures. Senegal will provide the labor and land resources. In 2007, Senegal began working with a US energy consulting company, Energy Allied International, which is helping Senegal plan how to invest $2 billion into a new oil refinery and biofuel power plant. The oil refinery may seem a peculiar addition to Senegal’s energy sector considering Senegal has no domestic oil resources. However it is intended to allow Senegal to process oil even if it can’t produce it directly from the ground. This measure is hoped to limit the amount of processed oil Senegal must import.

Since Senegal has begun to advance its biofuel agenda, the country has experienced an infusion of private investment, both foreign and domestic, into biofuel production. Some projects have already commenced in full and started to produce biofuels such as the Senegalese Sugar Company’s ethanol project. It has produced 35,000 tonnes of molasses, which it predicts will convert into 10,000 tonnes of bioethanol. The national Oilseed Company (SANACOS) has also begun to produce biofuels from ground nuts. Unfortunately, this conversion has been fairly inefficient and thus seems to hold little promise for the future of a large-scale biofuel industry.

Barriers to Biofuels

Many developing nations seeking to expand their biofuel industries share a variety of similar challenges. Questions arise as to whether these nations have the economic, agricultural, technological, and infrastructural resources to create the large biofuel industries that are proposed. These questions are certainly pertinent in Senegal where the biofuel industry is still in its early stages.

A number of unique obstacles could slow the rapid development of the biofuel industry in Senegal. One such obstacle is its complicated system of land ownership and allocation. Senegalese land can be owned by the state, private entities, or “domaine national”, in which the state owns the land but local government manages it. This varied system of land ownership could create land allocation problems during the development of the biofuel industry as a result of the fact that large quantities of land will be converted to new uses and that different rules of allocation apply to land based on ownership (Fuelling Exclusion). The government does not have to consider or consult local communities when allocating state owned land. However, the government does technically have to go through a consultation process when allocating lands of the domaine national, called zones de terrior. As a result of the subtle differences between different kinds of land ownership and the drastically different rules that apply to those lands, land conflicts could easily arise between local communities and the government. The presence of foreign investors only serve to further complicate the process of land allocation and increase the likelihood of conflict (Food, Farmers, and Fuel).

Country Statistics

Current Population: 12.1 Million
Current GDP: 9.2 billion USD
Future Projections
 
2000
2005
2010
2015
2020
2025
2030
SEN
57
72
91
119
157
207
272
SEN
10
12
13
15
16
17
19
Energy Use Breakdown
Supply & Consumption
Coal
Oil
Petroleum
Gas
Nuclear
Hydro
Geothermal, Solar, etc.
Combustible Renewables and Waste
Electricty
Heat
Total
TFC
94
0
1048
0
0
0
0
681
146
0
1969
Industry sector
94
0
131
0
0
0
0
0
49
0
275
Transport sector
0
0
728
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
728
Other sectors
0
0
162
0
0
0
0
681
97
0
939
Residential
0
0
159
0
0
0
0
681
59
0
898
Commercial and Public Services
0
0
3
0
0
0
0
0
37
0
41
Agriculture/Forestry
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Fishing
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Non-specified
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Non-Energy Use
0
0
27
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
27
Of which Petrochemical feedstocks
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

Current Biofuel Policies

National Jatropha Programme aims to cultivate 321,000 hectares of land and to produce 1.2 billion of jatropha oil.

Molasses and sugar sorghum are used to produce about 86,000 liters of ethanol.

Senegal Team

Joseph Francois Cabral

Assistant Professor
Cheikh Anta DIOP University
Email: joecabral7@hotmail.com
Phone: 221.864.7757

Biofuels Project Team Portrait
Cabral F. J is an Assistant Professor at Cheikh Anta DIOP University. His research focuses on issues of agricultural sector, food security, biofuels, trade liberalization, growth, poverty and inequality. He has conductued several studies on those issues and is currently working on Senegalese Accelerated growth strategy, the link beween climatic shocks and poverty, FDI, Aid and growth in zone franc.

Cheickh Sadibou Fall

Research Engineer
Bureau d’Analyses Macro-économiques (BAME)
Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA)

Email: fallcheickhsadibou@yahoo.fr
Phone: 221 77 518 08 08

Biofuels Project Team Portrait
His research focuses on the impact of trade policies on Senegalese agriculture and consequences on poverty.

Djiby DIA

Director of BAME
Bureau d’Analyses Macro-économiques (BAME)
Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA)

Email: djibydia@gmail.com
Phone: 221.864.7757

Biofuels Project Team Portrait
Djiby Dia is a researcher in the social sciences and serves as the director of ISRA’s Macroeconomic Analysis Unit (BAME). His research interests include the geography of markets, the relationship between cities and countrysides, farmers organizations, socio-economic rural transformations, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the management of natural resources and environment.

Aminata Ndour

Doctoral candidate in Geography
Bureau d’Analyses Macro-économiques (BAME)
Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA)

Email: dia.aminta@gmail.com
Phone: 221.864.7757

Biofuels Project Team Portrait
Aminata Ndour is a Ph.D. student at Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar. Her research areas are geography of markets, migration, gender issues.

Maam Suwadu Sakho-Jimbira

Post-doctoral Researcher in Economics
Email: souamintou@yahoo.fr
Phone: (221) 33 859 17 60

Biofuels Project Team Portrait
Maam Suwadu SAKHO-JIMBIRA is a young researcher at the Economic Department of the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Montpellier. The subject-matter of her research work is on the collective familial strategies of rural households to ensure food needs, with an emphasis on the role of Migration and Remittances. Her research interests focus on agricultural and development economics.