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Sustainability 2014, 6(6), 3615-3643; doi:10.3390/su6063615

The Rise, Fall and Potential Resilience Benefits of Jatropha in Southern Africa

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), P.O. Box 359, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Integrated Research System in Sustainability Science (IR3S), University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan
Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (George Campus), P/Bag X6531, George 6530, South Africa
Biodiversity Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 February 2014 / Revised: 5 May 2014 / Accepted: 19 May 2014 / Published: 5 June 2014
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [705 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Jatropha is the latest in a list of “miracle crops” that have been promoted in southern Africa for their perceived development benefits. This was based on promises of high yields, low water requirement, ability to grow on marginal land and lack of competition with food. In less than 10 years, tens of thousands of hectares were acquired for jatropha plantations and thousands of hectares were planted, most of which are now unused or abandoned. Overestimations of jatropha yields coupled with underestimations of the management costs have probably been the prime contributors to the collapse of most jatropha projects in southern African. However, a few projects still survive and show signs of possible long-term sustainability. We consider two such projects, a smallholder-based project in Malawi and a large-scale plantation in Mozambique. Though their long-term sustainability is not proven, both projects may increase resilience by diversifying household income streams and contributing to national fuel security. By identifying what seems to be working in these projects we provide insights as to why other projects may have failed in southern Africa and whether there is still place for jatropha in the region. In essence can jatropha still enhance local/national resilience or are jatropha’s benefits just a myth? View Full-Text
Keywords: jatropha; biofuels; southern Africa; Malawi; Mozambique; smallholder scheme; large plantation; resilience jatropha; biofuels; southern Africa; Malawi; Mozambique; smallholder scheme; large plantation; resilience
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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von Maltitz, G.; Gasparatos, A.; Fabricius, C. The Rise, Fall and Potential Resilience Benefits of Jatropha in Southern Africa. Sustainability 2014, 6, 3615-3643.

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