Unpacking livelihood challenges and opportunities in energy crop cultivation: perspectives on Jatropha curcas projects in Mali

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 132

Nicola Favretto, L.C. Stringer and A.J. Dougill

This study contributes to global debates on biofuels and rural development: it provides insights to the future of Jatropha curcas (Jatropha) promotion to fight global poverty and promote sustainable energy. Jatropha energy crop investments have proliferated as a means to substitute imported oil, foster rural development and reduce poverty.

This paper presents new mixed-method assessments of the potential for, and initial impacts of, Jatropha projects that aim to improve livelihoods and energy security in rural Mali, a leading promoter of Jatropha cultivation.

Factors affecting the socio-economic and environmental vulnerabilities of smallholder farmers are assessed and capital assets available in the pursuit of different livelihood strategies are identified and evaluated.

Comparative analysis of the information gathered through participatory methods allowed evaluation of the role played by Jatropha cultivation in the determination of different livelihood outcomes.

Data show that households involved with NGO or private sector activities linked toJatropha can gain financial capital due to income from the sale of Jatropha seeds and soap. Findings also show that small-scale cultivation does not threaten
food security. When grown on a small-scale as a living fence, Jatropha demarcates
property and reduces land tenure conflicts and soil erosion.

Projects focusing on Jatropha use for rural electrification offer potential to improve energy access. However, current supplies of biodiesel remain insufficient for these benefits to materialise.

On-the-ground challenges were identified – these include low profitability, labour shortage, high incidence of pests and diseases and lack of adequate farmer support – along with opportunities to better link policies to local-level practices.