Jatropha emerged as the plant of choice in many countries, including Zimbabwe, when the focus shifted from the use of first generation feedstocks, which can also be used as food crops, to second generation biofuels which use exclusively non-food feedstocks. This working brief critically examines the socio-economic and rural livelihood impacts of the Zimbabwean Jatropha biodiesel programme on rural farmers. In addition, the study discusses the Zimbabwean jatropha programme within the contentious global debate on the positive and negative impacts of biofuels.
Based on the data gathered from selected key informants and rural farmers through semi-structured interviews, this study found that growing jatropha under the national biodiesel programme could not achieve the desired goals of rural development and feedstock production. This is due to different reasons, among them, lack of proper planning. The programme that made use of the out-grower scheme was hurried and implemented in a policy vacuum. Despite the failure of the programme, this report does not discredit the growth of jatropha since the plant proved to have various social, cultural, environmental and economic uses to local rural farmers who traditionally grow it as hedge. This study therefore advocates the support of small scale non-commercial cultivation and processing of jatropha so that rural farmers can use it locally. Selling the seeds should therefore be an added advantage rather than a primary outcome. In that respect, the government must have its own source of feedstock (for example, making use of the estate or plantation scheme) which can be supplemented by local producers.
Mubonderi, J. Jatropha: The Broom of Poverty; Myth or Reality? A critical analysis of the Zimbabwean Jatropha programme in Mutoko district. Practical Action Consulting, (2012) 24 pp.