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The Jatropha biofuels sector in Tanzania 2005-2009: Evolution towards sustainability?


  • Romijn, Henny A.
  • Caniëls, Marjolein C.J.


Biofuel production has recently attracted much attention. Some anticipate substantial social and environmental benefits, while at the same time expecting sound profitability for investors. Others are doubtful, envisaging large trade-offs between the pursuit of social, environmental and economic objectives, particularly in poor countries in the tropics. The paper explores these issues in Tanzania, which has been an African forerunner in the cultivation of a bio-oil shrub called Jatropha curcas L. We trace how isolated Jatropha biofuel experiments developed since early 2005 towards a sectoral production and innovation system, and we investigate to what extent that system has been capable of developing and maintaining sustainable practices and producing sustainable outcomes. The application of evolutionary innovation theory allows us to view the developments in the sector as a result of evolutionary variation and selection on the one hand, and revolutionary contestation between different coalitions of stakeholders on the other. Both these processes constitute significant engines of change. While variation and selection are driven predominantly by localised technical and agronomic learning, the conflict-driven dynamics are highly globalised and occur primarily as a result of reflexive learning about problematic sustainability impacts. The sector is found to have moved some way towards a full sectoral innovation and production system, but it is impossible to predict whether a viable sector with a strong "triple bottom line" orientation will ultimate emerge, since many issues surrounding the social, environmental and financial sustainability still remain unresolved, especially relating to local and global governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Romijn, Henny A. & Caniëls, Marjolein C.J., 2011. "The Jatropha biofuels sector in Tanzania 2005-2009: Evolution towards sustainability?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 618-636, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:40:y:2011:i:4:p:618-636

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Castro Gonzáles, Nirza Fabiola, 2016. "International experiences with the cultivation of Jatropha curcas for biodiesel production," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 1245-1258.
    2. Avinash, A. & Subramaniam, D. & Murugesan, A., 2014. "Bio-diesel—A global scenario," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 517-527.
    3. Maja Slingerland & Marc Schut, 2014. "Jatropha Developments in Mozambique: Analysis of Structural Conditions Influencing Niche-Regime Interactions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-23, October.
    4. Gasparatos, A. & von Maltitz, G.P. & Johnson, F.X. & Lee, L. & Mathai, M. & Puppim de Oliveira, J.A. & Willis, K.J., 2015. "Biofuels in sub-Sahara Africa: Drivers, impacts and priority policy areas," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 879-901.
    5. Manning, Stephan & Reinecke, Juliane, 2016. "A modular governance architecture in-the-making: How transnational standard-setters govern sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 618-633.
    6. Ahmed, Abubakari & Campion, Benjamin Betey & Gasparatos, Alexandros, 2017. "Biofuel development in Ghana: policies of expansion and drivers of failure in the jatropha sector," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 133-149.
    7. Nerini, Francesco Fuso & Andreoni, Antonio & Bauner, David & Howells, Mark, 2016. "Powering production. The case of the sisal fibre production in the Tanga region, Tanzania," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 544-556.
    8. Hansen, Ulrich Elmer & Nygaard, Ivan, 2014. "Sustainable energy transitions in emerging economies: The formation of a palm oil biomass waste-to-energy niche in Malaysia 1990–2011," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 666-676.
    9. Faße, Anja & Winter, Etti & Grote, Ulrike, 2014. "Bioenergy and rural development: The role of agroforestry in a Tanzanian village economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 155-166.
    10. Mohr, Alison & Raman, Sujatha, 2013. "Lessons from first generation biofuels and implications for the sustainability appraisal of second generation biofuels," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 114-122.


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