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GlobE - BiomassWeb

BMBF funded research project

Duration first phase: 2013 - 2016


The increasing global demand for food, as well as for feed and other biomass-based raw materials, e.g. fuel and fiber crops, has increased the pressure on the agricultural sector in the past decade, especially in Africa. Concepts to increase food security while attending growing demands for non-food biomass and developing alternative biomass sources are still in their infant stages. BiomassWeb aims at contributing to improving food security in Sub-Saharan Africa by focusing on biomass-based value webs. Biomass-based value webs are complex systems of interlinked value chains in which food and fodder, fuels, and other raw materials are produced, processed and traded. BiomassWeb will investigate the production and utilization of biomass in Africa by looking at current and future biomass demand and supply. The project will identify innovation opportunities in pre and post-harvest production technologies, institutional settings and governance structures to enhance biomass value webs. The project will focus on the productive Sudan savanna belt (Ghana, Nigeria) and the East African highlands (Ethiopia). Analysis will be on a systems level but specific, exemplary 'model' value webs will be studied based on cassava, maize, banana/plantain/enset and biomass derived from natural vegetation and agroforestry systems. These case studies allow investigating in detail the local, regional and international flows and trade of biomass and derived products.

The 5-year BiomassWeb research program comprises 24 work packages organized into 7 research clusters. Project output will consist of scientific knowledge generation and capacity development in three forms: (1) Specific recommendations for the crops and countries that are being studied; (2) a framework of methods and tools to address future biomass challenges and a group of regional biomass resource experts trained in applying and expanding the tools (forming a 'living toolbox'); and (3) a pan-African network ('BiomassNet') of biomass experts (scientists) and actors in Sub-Saharan Africa's biomass sector as a stakeholder platform for biomass-related discussions and activities in SSA in the coming decades.

Contribution of ILR

Principal investigators

Prof. Dr. Thomas Heckelei, ILR, University of Bonn
Prof. Dr. Karin Holm-Müller, ILR, University of Bonn

Research fellow

Dr. Arnim Kuhn, ILR, University of Bonn

ILR work packages:

World market trends (WP 1.1)

WP 1.1 addresses long-term world market trends and global repercussions of biomass expansion in Africa. It will develop a quantitative biomass outlook for the study region and whole SSA until 2030, based on global agricultural model simulations. It identifies global drivers and feedbacks; for example, it will investigate how international scarcities increase world market prices for biomass, how this affects the expansion of food and non-food biomass production in Africa, and how the feedback from SSA to world biomass markets may look like.

Fact sheet WP 1.1

Regional economic models (WP 3.1)

WP 3.1 addresses the impact of expanding biomass webs on the economies of the study countries. Goals are to identify impacts of biomass production expansion, triggered by increasing international demand, and technology advancements, on the economies of the study countries, particularly job markets, food and fuel prices, and land resources. It identifies competition and synergies between food and non-food production, and specifically assesses effects on rural poor, food security and on macroeconomics.

PhD student: N.N

Fact sheet WP 3.1

Labor markets (WP 3.2)

WP 3.2 analyzes the effects of African biomass expansion on rural labor markets and incomes in the project countries. The structural changes due to biomass web transformations will be analyzed (employment effects, skills demanded, effects of increased labor productivity, wages and income effects, effects on food security (access to food). Land and labor are the most important production factors in SSA's agriculture. Processes such as expansion of cropland driven by population growth are intimately linked to the functioning of labor markets. Biomass production can have effects on employment, income generation and therefore food security.

PhD student:N.N

Fact sheet WP 3.2

Economics of post-harvest technologies (WP 5.2)

Research in WP 5.2 will investigate the post harvest technologies applied to maize, cassava and plantain at different stages in the marketing chain in the countries concerned, and economically analyze post-harvest losses, based on surveys of actors at different level and location within the value webs.

PhD student: M.Sc. Nkoyo Etim Bassey, ILR, University of Bonn

Fact sheet WP 5.2

Land use effects (WP 6.2)

Land in SSA, although not physically scarce, is expected to suffer from pressures due to increased biomass production based on global demands and 'land grabs'. The work package assesses whether and where expanding biomass production will lead to land use expansion, increase pressure on marginal lands, forests and conservation areas, push food production to marginal lands, and the related institutional challenges.

PhD student: M.Sc. Tsegaw Degaffe, ILR, University of Bonn

Fact sheet WP 6.2

Last updated: Sunday, June 26, 2016