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Potential socio-economic implications of ethanol production as a green economic initiative in Cradock, Eastern Cape
South Africa is taking a continental lead towards the transition of the green economy, and the energy sector has been identified as one of the cornerstones integral in this transition. This transition pays attention to alternative energy sources to gradually replace fossil fuels. Recently, the production of ethanol is seen as an energy source that is an integral player in achieving a green economy. The ethanol production project is linked to the improvement of the economy, and social well-being concomitant with the enhancement of the environmental quality tenets embodied by the green economy. Scholars have noted that these projects tend to ignore socio-economic realities of under privileged people especially in rural areas and small towns. While the green energy is often presented by the state there is, however, no evidence of the positive as well as negative impacts of ethanol projects on improving the livelihoods of the local communities or contributing to the substance of the local economies while protecting the quality of the environment. This thesis explored the subject of ethanol projects as green economic models in the context of the ethanol project in Cradock. The thesis investigated the socio-economic implications of the ethanol project in Cradock as a green economic model. The research study argues that the inclusion of the local people in decision making for the ethanol project is crucial to securing their benefits from the project. This means that local people should be involved early in the decision making process. Failure to engage the local residents in the initial stages of decision making, may create a lack of sense of ownership resulting in a lack of socio-economic benefits for the residents. The research study adopted a qualitative research design and an inductive approach. The ethanol project in Cradock was used as a case study for the research, and two sampling techniques, purposive sampling and random sampling were used. Interviews, questionnaires and observations were used to collect data from the residents of Cradock, the business sector (hospitality, tourism and agricultural retail), the emerging farmers, the farm workers, the Agrarian Research Development Agency, and Government Departments (Local Economic Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform). The findings illustrate that the ethanol project in Cradock is not consistent with the tenets of a green economic model. The results suggested that the project does not improve the livelihood of the community or contribute to the sustenance of the local economies while protecting the quality of the environment. From an environmental perspective, while the ethanol project regarding providing ethanol fuel contributes positively to the global green agenda, it deteriorates the quality of the local environment. The project pollutes the local environment which is a source of livelihood for the local people and the economy. Therefore, the adverse effect of the project on the local environment contributes to a negative effect on the local economy and livelihood of the residents. The results also revealed that the project stakeholders, particularly the residents of Cradock and the emerging farmers, were not involved in the early stages of the project where the benefits were determined. As a result, the stakeholders do not have a sense of ownership of the project, and there are uncertainties about the sustainability of their socio-economic benefits. The ethanol project introduces a shift from the traditional commercial agriculture to the production of biofuel feedstock. This causes an effect on the local economy and livelihood because traditional commercial agriculture has sustained the town for more than 200 years. The thesis raises questions about the notion that ethanol projects are green economic models.