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Jatropha cultivation in Malawi and Mozambique: impact on ecosystem services, local human well-being, and poverty alleviation

Graham P. von Maltitz, CSIR, South Africa; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa
Alexandros Gasparatos, Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Christo Fabricius, Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa
Abbie Morris, Independent development practitioner, Malawi
Kathy J. Willis, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK; Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, UK


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Jatropha-based biofuels have undergone a rapid boom-and-bust cycle in southern Africa. Despite strong initial support by governments, donors, and the private sector, there is a lack of empirical studies that compare the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of Jatropha’s two dominant modes of production: large plantations and smallholder-based projects. We apply a rapid ecosystem services assessment approach to understand the impact of two Jatropha projects that are still operational despite widespread project collapse across southern Africa: a smallholder-based project (BERL, Malawi) and a large plantation (Niqel, Mozambique). Our study focuses on changes in provisioning ecosystem services such as biofuel feedstock, food, and woodland products that can have important effects on human well-being locally. Qualitative information is provided for other regulating and cultural ecosystem services. Although at this stage no impact is tremendously positive or negative, both projects show some signs of viability and local poverty alleviation potential. However, their long-term sustainability is not guaranteed given low yields, uncertain markets, and some prevailing management practices.

Key words

biofuels; ecosystem services; Jatropha; Malawi; Mozambique; smallholders

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087