In recent years, international trade in biomass and bioenergy has increased significantly, including liquid biofuels as well as solid fuels such as wood pellets. Although trade has included many constellations of trading partners, it is the North-South trade, i.e. the export of biomass and bioenergy products from developing to developed countries, which has tended to attract the most attention.
The opportunities for growth, development, and creation of livelihoods have attracted interest from business groups and policy-makers, while conservationist and social groups have expressed alarm at the prospect for environmental degradation and economic exploitation.
The axis of international trade and technical cooperation between the EU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is of special interest in this report, within the context of region-to-region trade, development linkages, and the high potential for bioenergy production in some of the sparsely populated and biomass-rich regions of southern Africa.
Liquid biofuels, especially bio-ethanol and biodiesel, have presented the markets that are of special interest for Europe, due to the commitments to reducing GHG emissions from the transport sector along with the high energy and economic cost of producing biofuels in Europe. Consequently, these biofuels receive greater attention in the report, although various types of woody and agricultural biomass are also discussed.
The analysis and research in this report was undertaken as follow-up to a workshop held in April, 2005, at which some of the relevant issues were presented and discussed. Since that time, the authors have participated in a number of international initiatives concerned with bioenergy in Africa and the implications of expanded bioenergy markets on livelihoods, trade and regional development. The report therefore provides a “stylized review” on the relations among the three topics (biomass, livelihoods, international trade) in terms of the key driving forces and the costs and benefits of alternative bioenergy development strategies.
Rather than attempting to offer conclusions on these broad and emerging issues, the report provides recommendations for areas that should receive future emphasis in research, programme development, policy guidelines, and capacity building. A number of key bioenergy statistics and indicators are reviewed and discussed, and presented in over twenty tables and figures.