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