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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry & Earth Sciences

Chair of Economic Geography – Prof. Dr. Stefan Ouma

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Whose Bioeconomy? Visions of socio-ecological transformation and their ethical negotiation in Tanzania (BATATA)

Team: Eugen Pissarskoi (Universität Tübingen), Kerstin Schopp (Universität Tübingen), Stefan Ouma, Leiyo Singo

Runtime: 2019-2022

Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) 

Website: http://batata-bioeconomy.de/

At first glance, it seems that a transformation to sustainable bioeconomy and quest for agricultural transformation in a country of Sub-Sahara Africa like Tanzania are well aligned with each other. Available land areas could be used for sustainable biomass production satisfying the additional demand resulting from a global transformation to bioeconomy. Biomass-rich countries could use this resource for strengthening their agricultural sector and for diversification of their economies by processing the biomass to higher value products.

This “win-win-narrative” becomes spread throughout Western as well as sub-Saharan discourses. BATATA asks whether it contains an ethically justifiable strategy for a socio-ecological transformation for a biomass-rich country like Tanzania. Therefore, BATATA scrutinizes the following questions by the means of a coupled ethical-empirical analysis:

  • Who exactly in Tanzania does support the win-win-narrative?

  • Are there further bioeconomic visions – i.e. desirable conceptions of economy with biomass as its main resource base – being envisioned by Tanzanian stakeholders? 

  • If there are vernacular bioeconomy visions, who does support them and in how far do these visions manage to enter the public imagination and policy world?

  • If there are vernacular bioeconomy visions, do they entail competing ethical assumptions?

  • If they entail competing ethical assumptions, which reasons can be provided in favour of them?

The project aims at identification of Tanzanian visions of sustainable bioeconomy, which do not gain political efficacy neither in the global nor in national discourses on socio-ecological transformations although they are justifiable on the basis of widely acceptable ethical assumptions.

Since “Bioeconomy” is still an amorphous concept in Tanzanian politics, yet the effects of the global discourse have already materialized on the ground, BATATA shall conduct discourse analysis in connection with philosophical argumentation analysis of Tanzanian discourses focusing on two aspects of a transformation to bioeconomy:

(i) deployment of genetically modified seeds and

(ii) conceptions of land use.

By the means of discourse analysis, it shall identify different stakeholder’s visions of bioeconomy and trace political processes by which these visions become publicly efficacious. By argumentation analysis, ethical justifications of the desirability of the particular visions will be reconstructed and possible conflicts among them analysed with regard to the presupposed ethical assumptions. Additionally, based on theories from political philosophy, BATATA shall discuss how competing visions of sustainable bioeconomy should be realized according to ideals of global justice.

BATATA results shall strengthen processes of global socio-ecological transformation by eliciting subdominant perspectives on desirable goals of these transformation processes, making their ethical justifications explicit and thereby embedding the advocates of these perspectives into national and global discourses on the direction of socio-ecological transformations.


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