Biofuel plantations have been hyped as a means to reinvigorate Africa’s rural areas. Yet there is still apprehension about the negative environmental and social impacts of large-scale commercial biofuel production around rising food prices, land grabbing, ecological damage, and disruption of rural livelihoods. Given the extent of Jatropha curcas
production in Ghana and Ethiopia and Castor bean (Ricinus communis
) in Ethiopia, this paper presents the results of a study that assessed the socio-economic implications of industrial Jatropha plantations on local livelihoods in Ghana, and of industrial Jatropha and Castor plantations on local livelihoods in Ethiopia. This study used primary data collected from 234 households in Ghana and 165 in Ethiopia. The cultivation of Jatropha and Castor has had several important effects on local livelihoods in the study sites, most notably decreases in household landholdings due to the arrival of industrial Jatropha or Castor plantations; and the resulting changes these plantations have caused in household socio-economic status, food security, fallow periods, and fodder availability. We consider how a lack of meaningful consultation between local people, their traditional authorities and the biofuel company managers, along with shortcomings in each country’s broader land acquisition process and poor land use information, may have contributed to these overall negative effects on local livelihoods. We conclude by suggesting several ways that emerging biofuel industries could be improved from the perspective of local people and their livelihoods.
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