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.

More details:

Project-Team at IZEW


In Cooperation with:

Dr. Richard Mbunda, University of Dar es Salaam

Time Span of the Project

  • October 2019 - June 2023

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.


Podcast: Genetically Modified Crops for Sustainable Agriculture in Tanzania?

This podcast sheds light on the recent dynamics in Tanzanian politics of genetically modified crops and reflects on political interests and ethical reasons behind them: a conversation between Thomas Potthast and Richard Mbunda.

Online-Workshop "Beyond Productivity: Reimagining Futures of Agriculture and Bioeconomy" | 08.10.2021


Online Workshop „Field Work/Failed Work?“ | 15.07.2020

On Wednesday, 15th July 2020, seven participants from Germany and Austria met at an online workshop conceived and organized by Kerstin Schopp. All of them try to handle the pandemic’s influence on their fieldwork. They either conducted fieldwork during the pandemic and had to omit their work due to Corona or they had to postpone their fieldwork and are planning to conduct it somewhen in the future. Since such a situation raises many questions and answers cannot be found easily, we discussed our own experiences and exchanged opinions as well as advices. We spent much time discussing research ethical questions arising from the pandemic. Since Corona is a multiplier of already existing global inequalities reinforcing divides of power and privileges the question of our responsibility and role as researchers from the Global North arises. From the practical point of view, we took into consideration the experiences of those who conducted fieldwork during Corona times and discussed challenges, adapted methods as well as alternative methods which are closely connected with data protection. Another important topic were legal and institutional rules we have to follow such as regulations for research travels, insurance, and research clearance during Corona times. At the end, we even had time to discuss issues which could help us to decide when we can return to the field. Of course, many of them are individual and depend on the researcher, the topic, the region, the kind of research, and the participant people, but we also agreed on commonly accepted criteria such as to work on an individually adapted hygienic concept considering different possible situations. Altogether, the workshop was a very good opportunity for exchange with researchers trapped in the same situation and the participants asked for a follow-up workshop to share the experiences they will have made either with a new research methodology or on the ground.


Working Papers