A collaborative study between researchers at Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and ATREE questions the claim of Jatropha as a super crop that will combat climate change and address the problem of rural poverty. Jatropha is an oilseed crop that is supposed to provide a renewable alternative to fossil fuels, in the form of biodiesel. Its promoters also claim it to be a pro-poor cash crop, being productive on marginal lands, requiring minimum or no irrigation or fertilizer inputs. The Indian government and several Indian states, especially Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, have promoted Jatropha heavily, both on public and private lands. However, the UAB-ATREE study in Tamil Nadu, published recently in two parts in Ecological Economics and Journal of Peasant Studies, shows that Jatropha oilseed yields even in private agricultural lands are poor, especially under rainfed conditions, and that irrigation is necessary for Jatropha to be even marginally profitable. Further, with low yields on marginal lands and requirement of expensive inputs for a profitable yield, the pro-poor tag is quite inapplicable to Jatropha. In fact, its cultivation exacerbates competition for water, reduces firewood availability, and increases intra-village inequity. The study shows that many farmers have suffered major economic losses by entering into Jatropha cultivation, that the biodiesel companies who encouraged the farmers to do so have gone back on their promises of purchasing the oilseeds at a remunerative price, and consequently many farmers have uprooted the crop and gotten into conflicts with the promoters at various levels. These findings add to the growing disillusionment with the public policy on biofuels in India, which is already under fire for promoting fuel crop cultivation that displaces food crops from arable lands.
Ariza-Montobbio P. and Lele S., 2010. Jatropha plantations for biodiesel in Tamil Nadu, India: Viability, livelihood trade-offs, and latent conflict. Ecological Economics, 70:189-195.
Ariza-Montobbio, Pere , Lele, Sharachchandra , Kallis, Giorgos and Martinez-Alier, Joan(2010) The political ecology of Jatropha plantations for biodiesel in Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Peasant Studies, 37: 4, 875 — 897
Friends of the Earth report: Jatropha: Money Does Not Grow on Trees