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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Original article

Insights to the internal sphere of influence of peasant family farms in using biogas plants as part of sustainable development in rural areas of Germany

Anke Bischoff

Author Affiliations

Postgraduate Program Microenergy Systems, Technische Universität Berlin, Sekr. HBS 1, Hardenbergstr. 16-18, Berlin, 10 623, Germany

Energy, Sustainability and Society 2012, 2:9  doi:10.1186/2192-0567-2-9

Published: 25 May 2012



Within the last decade, the biogas branch has become an important economic sector in Germany. Many arguments are used to support a further and rapid expansion of local biogas plants in both quantity and capacity. They are centered on the potential of biogas plants for supporting rural sustainable development processes. On the other side, the national biogas praxis is accompanied by several unwelcome and partly severe side effects. This contrast has given rise to research on how to master the complex challenge of operating biogas plants as part of overall sustainable development processes in rural Germany.


The research presented in this article is mainly based on the extended case study method.


It gives insight into the respective actions and significance of family farms that proactively use and develop their internal sphere of influence. These farms do so by embracing deciding factors of action such as unfolding synergies, mobilizing endogenous resources, as well as sustaining continuous innovativeness. Furthermore, they make use of a farm’s capacity for self-regulation.


The strategies of the surveyed family farms reflect a regrounding in a peasant type of agriculture - a development which has currently been observed as a worldwide repeasantization. Given Germany’s rapid decline of family farms over the past several decades, the future role of the farms in mastering the complex challenge of supporting overall sustainable development processes, e.g., with biogas plants as a technical link, is uncertain. Making use of current repeasantization processes for expanding the sustainable use of biogas plants is an approach which, to date, seems to be hardly noticed and considerably underestimated.

biogas plant; family farm; peasant type of agriculture; sustainable development; self-regulation