Biomass energy experiments in rural India: Insights from learning-based development approaches and lessons for Strategic Niche Management

Henny Romijn, Rob Raven, Ina de Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the suitability and limitations of the Strategic Niche Management framework in the context of emerging economies of South and East Asia. We explore several learning-based approaches to development projects that are part of the academic and practitioner field of development studies. The approaches show similarities with SNM but they reflect the developing-country context within which they were framed, and are also more geared towards local community development and capacity building. We apply these approaches to four biomass energy projects in rural India to identify determinants of success and failure. We then discuss how these findings compare with the insights that an SNM analysis would have offered. We arrive at the following conclusions. First, the great strengths of SNM are its explicit conceptualisation of environmental sustainability and its endogenous treatment of the larger context. Second, the learning-based development approaches hone in on the complexities of local management and stakeholder organisation. Third, they also bring out the great importance of local institutions such as traditional status and power differences. Fourth, we conclude that SNM holds considerable promise for application in a developing Asian context, but that its usefulness and relevance in that setting could be enhanced by incorporating these additional issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-338
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomass
  • Development projects
  • India
  • Learning
  • Renewables
  • Strategic Niche Management

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