The Jatropha Biofuels Sector in Tanzania 2005-9: Evolution Towards Sustainability?
Biofuel production from the tropical plant Jatropha curcas L. has recently attracted a great deal of attention. Some anticipate substantial social and environmental benefits from its cultivation, while at the same time expecting sound profitability for investors. Others are more doubtful, envisaging large trade-offs between the pursuit of social, environmental and economic objectives. The paper explores these issues in Tanzania, a forerunner in the cultivation of Jatropha in Africa. We trace how isolated Jatropha biofuel experiments in the country developed since their inception in early 2005 towards a fully fledged sectoral production and innovation system; and investigate to what extent that system has been capable of developing ánd maintaining sustainable practices and producing sustainable outcomes. The application of evolutionary economic theory allows us to view the ongoing development processes 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 in the sector. While variation and selection is driven predominantly by localised learning, the conflict-driven dynamics are highly globalised. 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.
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