Panel 28: LIVELIHOODS – Biofuels and Livelihoods

Salient discourses and narratives justify biofuel related interventions in terms of the economic development of “waste” or “idle” lands, alternative energy and climate change. These exist alongside counter- narratives that project a dire food security crisis related to biofuel development. This panel will consider a number of questions related to biofuels and livelihoods.

For instance, how do policy narratives work to justify distinct practices of land appropriation, framing processes of gaining access and control over rural land alongside resistance from agrarian movements and local populations?

Second, a number of the papers will look across scales to consider how an increasingly de-territorialized global economy articulates with local processes. Can we identify a common set of drivers affecting livelihood changes in different cases? How might they be affecting conflict dynamics? How can we understand the leading dynamics at play in biofuel related land grabs? What are the most important processes and elements working in particular settings?

Third, the panel will consider the impact of land acquisition related to biofuel development on livelihoods. How do the stated objectives of policy relate to the de facto outcomes on the ground situation for rural communities? Under what conditions do we see the usurpation of community lands or the enhancement of household food security? What is the impact of biofuel development on power relations and agrarian structures? To what degree are biofuel policy agendas leading to the appropriation of land by local and national elites and corporations? What processes lead to different outcomes? Can we posit a relationship between land appropriation for biofuels and food security? Can we identify linkages between particular modes of smallholder engagement and different livelihood outcomes?

Finally, the panel will consider the politics of biofuels: how are different actors – investors, the state, transnationals, smallholders or agrarian movements – engaging with political processes to affect resource access and control?

Chair: John McCarthy, Australian National University