International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


Whose Bioeconomy? – Tracing Visions of Socio-ecological Transformation and their Ethical Deliberation in Tanzania

BATATA aims at identification of conceptions of sustainable bioeconomy being endorsed in the Global South. Empirically, it focuses on politically under-represented social groups in Tanzania, a biomass-rich country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The identified visions will be compared with those supported by the political mainstream in Tanzania and with the concepts of a sustainable bioeconomy from the Global North with regard to their underlying values. The Ethics Center aims at an ethical analysis of reasons provided for and against the realization of these visions of a sustainable economy.


Project-Team at IZEW


In Cooperation with:

Dr. Richard Mbunda, University of Dar es Salaam

Time Span of the Project

  • October 2019 - September 2022

Description of the Project

Bioeconomy aims at an economy in which fossil resources are substituted by the biomass. This vision has been brought forward within the Global North, but it seems to be well aligned with the pursuit of strengthening the agriculture in a Sub-Saharan African country such as Tanzania. Arable land areas in Tanzania could be used for a sustainable biomass production satisfying the additional demand resulting from a global transformation to bioeconomy. Biomass-rich countries could strengthen their agricultural sector and diversify their economies by processing biomass to higher quality products.

Such a win-win narrative becomes widespread both in the Global North and in Sub-Saharan Africa. BATATA asks whether this narrative contains an ethically justifiable strategy for a socio-ecological transformation for a biomass-rich country such as Tanzania. For this purpose, we will examine the following questions by the means of a coupled ethical-empirical analysis:

  • Who exactly does support in Tanzania the win-win narrative?
  • Are there further bioeconomy visions endorsed by Tanzanian stakeholders, i. e. desirable conceptions of an economy with biomass as its main resource base?
  • In case there are vernacular bioeconomy visions, who is supporting them and to what extent do they succeed in entering the public imagination and policy world?
  • If there are vernacular bioeconomy visions, do they contain competing ethical assumptions?
  • If they contain competing ethical assumptions, how can they be justified?

BATATA aims at identification of Tanzanian visions of sustainable bioeconomy which do not gain political efficacy  even though they can be justified by widely acceptable ethical reasons.


“Bioeconomy” is currently not an amorphous concept in Tanzanian politics. However, the global discourse has already materialized on the ground. In BATATA, we will conduct a discourse analysis combined with a philosophical argumentation analysis focusing on the following aspects of the Tanzanian discourses:

  • Use of genetically modified organisms and
  • Land use conceptions

By means of discourse analysis, we shall identify bioecononmy visions and trace political processes by which these visions become publicly efficacious. Argumentation analyses will be carried out to reconstruct the ethical justifications for the desirability of the particular visions and to analyse possible ethical conflicts between them. Additionally, we shall discuss the relationship between a sustainable bioeconomy and the ideals of global justice based on theories from political philosophy.

Intended results

BATATA is expected to extend the existing knowledge about conceptions of sustainable bioeconomy. Moreover, it aims at a systematic survey of possible disagreements about how a sustainable bioeconomy should be realized.