Hivos International

Climate change and sustainable energy production are high on the political agenda. However, public debate generally focuses on how the use of fossil fuels can be reduced. Much less attention is given to the lack of energy access for people living in developing countries. Remarkably, the solution to both issues is the same: renewable energy. In its projects, Hivos aims to demonstrate that green and inclusive energy is not a pipe dream or an alternative, but simply the best choice. Our research informs our stance in the debate and reflects on our projects in the field.

One strand of research concerns biofuels: its crop cultivation, financial feasibility, general benefits for small-scale farmers and ethical considerations concerning food versus fuel. Regarding Jatropha curcas, a species of flowering plant in the spurge family, Hivos published an extensive meta-evaluation of a range of pilot projects, which can be found in this dossier. Our biogas programmes resulted in studies concerning bioslurry, a by-product from biogas produced from cattle, pig and buffalo dung (and other excrement). An extensive publication concludes that bioslurry not only solves various soil fertility problems, but also gives biogas projects for farmers in Africa and Southeast Asia access to modern energy services, while helping mitigate poverty and climate change.

Recognizing the power of showing by example, we initiated Iconic Projects, bold Hivos initiatives that showcase how people can take charge of their own development - aided by a supply of 100% renewable energy. In 2010, Hivos initiated its Sumba campaign, a mission to turn the Indonesian island of Sumba into ‘an Iconic Island for Renewable Energy’. The choice of Sumba was based on the results of assessments concluding that the island possessed strong potential for various types of renewable energy. Five years later, Sumba is well on its way. Our research products feature forward-looking assessments of readiness and backward-looking reflections on the dynamics of this complex multi-actor initiative, involving local indigenous tribes, local, regional and national government structures and industry.

A more current strand of research comes from the Energy Change Lab, a Hivos-IIED partnership cultivating space for dangerous thinking and exploration of complex ideas in the energy domain. The Lab noted that mainstream debates on energy futures tend to have a common blind spot: discussions focus on energy sources, market regulation, security, demand, price and the environment. The role of ordinary people in these systems is left out. Research focuses on how to fill this gap. Leading energy thinkers around the world were asked what role ordinary people would play in energy systems of the future, resulting in an extensive publication, outlining steps for further action and exploration.

For these and more insights about renewable energy do browse through this dossier! Are you looking for a specific publication? Use our publication search.

Other Knowledge Dossiers

Citizen Action

Citizens are central actors in public and political arenas. Their ability to hold governments to account and to participate fully in democratic processes is contingent upon the opportunities to freely assemble, associate and express opinions. Around the globe citizens are claiming their rights, rising up to injustices occurring and proposing alternatives. They use “old” methods of social movements and “new” instruments such as social media. Increasingly citizens are also reaching out to a global constituency; think of Occupy, the protests against Monsanto and TTIP.

Gender and Sexual Rights

In the field of Gender and Sexual Rights, Hivos has a long and remarkable history.  We were one of the first organisations that campaigned for sexual rights, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs), but also men who have sex with men (MSM) without considering themselves to be homosexual. In the field of women’s rights, we have been supporting women all over the world to organise themselves and become a countervailing power in their societies. In both domains, we seek new ways to bring about change in people’s mindsets.

Methods of Change

We are constantly seeking to improve our understanding of the world's workings and our place in it. To us, social innovation is a means to an end, or better yet, a way to contribute to a free, fair and sustainable world. But what does that mean in practice? It means working with a broad range of stakeholders in multi-actor initiatives and conducting “Change Labs”. It means having a user-centered approach and co-creating solutions with the people we want to reach.


Pluralism and diversity are essential ingredients of a dynamic society. Yet, ingrained values, acquired privileges and established power structures often limit the acceptance people have for different values, identities and religions. In too many places around the world, people are faced with intolerance. Where belief or value systems become absolute - leaving no room for alternative interpretations - and are imposed on others, we speak of 'fundamentalism'. Fundamentalism threatens the peaceful co-existence of people belonging to different ethnic, social, religious or cultural groups.

Sustainable Food and Biodiversity

Hivos has a long history of working on issues concerning food, agriculture and biodiversity. Research has and continues to underpin many of our projects in the field, and contributes to broader debates on sustainable food. In our view, citizens should be centre-stage in a transition towards sustainable and inclusive food production and consumption. Signs of the required transformation are emerging worldwide, luckily. In local communities, small enterprises are launching sustainable food products. How do those frontrunners opt for change?

Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa

Since the outbreak of the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011, the region is undergoing tectonic shifts. The pace, quality and quantity of political and social changes are unprecedented. In short, the MENA region is the scene of historic revolutions and counter-revolutions. In such a rapidly changing context, conventional wisdom about static societies and states in the MENA do not make sense and are out of context. There is no shortage of knowledge produced in the West about MENA.