Unpacking Key Livelihood Challenges and Opportunities in Energy Crop Cultivation: village level perspectives on Jatropha curcas in Mali
The opportunities and benefits of biofuels as a viable option for enhancing access to energy, substituting oil and promoting sustainable development have attracted growing attention of policy, industry, non-governmental organisations and the research community. Nevertheless, empirical data on the prospective benefits and on-the-ground challenges of biofuels as a rural development tool is lacking.
Sustainable Livelihood Approaches can play a role in bridging this knowledge gap, and have been widely adopted since the early 1990s by academics and development organisations in order to understand and enhance the livelihoods of the rural poor.
This paper presents new mixed-method, multi-level assessments of the potential of Jatropha curcas (Jatropha) energy crop to improve livelihoods in rural Mali: a leading promoter of small-scale Jatropha agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
Key factors affecting the socio-economic and environmental vulnerabilities of Jatropha farmers are assessed. Capital assets (e.g. financial, natural, human, physical and social) available in the pursuit of a variety of livelihood strategies are identified through the lens of the Sustainable Livelihood Framework. The role played by household-level Jatropha uptake in the determination of different livelihood outcomes – under the influence of key institutions, actors and transforming processes – is evaluated.
By doing so, this study provides essential insights on the future of Jatropha promotion to fight global poverty and contributes to major global debates surrounding biofuels and rural development.