This paper investigates options to reduce or avoid biomass scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa that can support sustainable agricultural transformation and energy transitions.

More specifically, it assesses how communities respond to such scarcities (how they adapt) and deliberates on the possibilities and parameters of a sustainable increase in biomass production. The Lake Tana sub-basin in the highlands of Ethiopia is used as a case study, since it provides an example of an area currently experiencing biomass deficits.

The authors quantitatively elaborate the impact of different strategies to combat biomass scarcity by changing the supply and demand of biomass, with a special focus on the role of soil productivity. The paper also accounts for qualitative aspects of governing natural resources.

The authors conclude that:

  • Biomass scarcity creates self-propagating vicious circles in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Demand and supply side management are options to avoid biomass scarcity.
  • Agricultural transformation and energy transitions depend on biomass.

For biomass strategies to be effective, the authors recommend that they should focus equally on avoiding vicious cycles and encouraging virtuous ones, and point out that sustainable soil management and inclusive and integrated natural resource governance lie at the heart of doing so. National development strategies need to pay attention to the multiple roles that biomass fulfills in the society which thus will require cross-sector collaboration.

Read the article (external link to journal)