Student thesis: Performance of Jatropha biodiesel production and its environmental and socio-economic impacts


Student thesis: Performance of Jatropha biodiesel production and its environmental and socio-economic impacts

Lisa Axelsson and Maria Franzén studied the master's programme Industrial Ecology. Their master's thesis addressed cultivation of Jatropha, an oil-crop used for producing biodiesel. The thesis identified the barriers farmers face in cultivation and assessed the environmental and socioeconomic impact.

The increased demand for renewable energy sources and India’s need to secure its energy supply have spurred interest in development of biofuel production in India. Expectations have been high for the production of biodiesel from the oil-crop Jatropha. Jatropha is promoted as a drought- and pest-resistant crop, with the potential to grow on degraded soil with a low amount of inputs. These characteristics encourage hope for positive environmental and socio-economic impacts from Jatropha biodiesel production.

In 2003 a large-scale government programme was launched for promotion and implementation of Jatropha cultivation and biodiesel production. To gain more information on Jatropha performance the Indian Institute of Science performed a field study in Southern India in 2005-06, conducting interviews with Jatropha farmers and measurements of their plantations.

The current study is a follow-up to the previous study. The purpose is to explore the performance of Jatropha biodiesel production in Southern India, to indentify motivational factors for continued Jatropha cultivation, and to assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of the Jatropha biodiesel production. For this purpose, 106 farmers who have or have had Jatropha plantations were visited and interviewed regarding their opinion of Jatropha cultivation and existing plantations were assessed.

The study finds that 85 percent of the Jatropha farmers have discontinued cultivation of Jatropha. The main barriers to continued cultivation derive from ecological problems and economic losses. The Jatropha characteristics were overrated, and the plantations failed to provide income to the farmer. Problems in the development and execution of the government implementation of the Jatropha programme were also identified as barriers. The farmers experienced a lack of support from involved authorities. A common factor for the farmers who have continued Jatropha cultivation is that they have the economic means to maintain non-profitable plantations. As the Jatropha programme was not as successful as expected, the expected positive environmental and socio-economic impacts have not been realized.

Download Performance of Jatropha biodiesel production and its environmental and socio-economic impacts - A case study in Southern India.

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