Using the ecosystem service approach to determine whether jatropha projects were located in marginal lands in Ghana: Implications for site selection

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Biomass and Bioenergy, ISSN: 0961-9534, Vol: 114, Page: 112-124

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Abubakari Ahmed; Marcin Pawel Jarzebski; Alexandros Gasparatos
Elsevier BV
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Energy; Environmental Science
article description
The concept of marginal land is often used to justify land availability and inform land allocation for biofuel projects. However, marginal lands can provide other valuable ecosystem services. Using interviews with multiple stakeholders and fieldwork in three collapsed biofuel projects in Ghana, this paper shares perspectives on how the ecosystem service approach (ESA) can offer a better basis for selecting land for biofuel projects. Expert interviews with key stakeholders (e.g. Lands Commission) in biofuel value chains in Ghana highlight the lack of consensus of what constitutes marginal land, with two dominant interpretations coming up; (i) land unsuitable for food production and (ii) land unsuitable for cost-effective agricultural production. Both interpretations however do not reflect the ecosystem services lands provide, as well as the significant cultural values attached to them. Our empirical work shows that many ecosystem services are obtained from the supposedly marginal lands that are neglected from both interpretations, as well as the standard project planning and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes. We make the case that when compared to the current marginal land narrative, the ESA offers a better lens for understanding local land uses, in managing emerging tradeoffs and providing information for locating biofuel projects. Our findings suggest that expanding the scope of EIAs by integrating elements of the ESA can go a long way towards informing site selection for biofuel investments.