Project Summary

Biofuels and the Poor, a project funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will shed light on how biofuels could impact the lives of poor smallholder farmers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and analyze the feasibility of investing in biofuels systems in the developing world.

Biofuels represents a potentially large area of investment in the agricultural sector; many countries that have already begun or are contemplating scaling-up efforts to produce energy from biomass provided by food or non-food feedstock crops. The project aims to understand the pathways of impact that can generate either positive or negative effects on rural agricultural economies. The results will help inform decisions about how countries could prioritize development of biofuels, while also balancing food security, economic development and environmental sustainability goals. It will also help to evaluate which feedstock production systems and conversion technologies might be best suited for these countries – if at all.

Goals of our proposed research are:

a.) To describe the paths of impact between locations of biofuels production and their ultimate effects on small producers and vulnerable consumers, by quantifying impacts of shifts in world supply and demand for food, feed, feedstocks and biofuels;

b.) To assess the feasability of investing in biofuels systems in poor countries, as well as assess which technologies have the largest positive effects on producers and the least negative effect on consumers.

High-quality and scientifically-sound information will create an analytical platform in order to produce empirically-grounded answers to some of the main questions about biofuels and their effects on poverty. As part of striving toward this long-term goal, we are engaging in ongoing dialogue with the Gates Foundation.