Guatemala is highly dependent on fossil fuels. In 2007, 4,200 million litres of diesel were imported for national consumption. However, the Ministry of Agriculture had identified more than 600,000 hectares of unproductive land that were suitable for the crop Jatropha. Around 40% of each Jatropha seed is comprised of an oil which, when extracted, can be used directly as biodiesel. If all this idle land was used to harvest Jatropha, it was estimated that the country had the capacity to substitute 80% of the imported diesel for home-grown oil (PAC 2009, 1 TechnoServe 2008 2).
The Biodiesel for Rural Development project aimed at improving the livelihoods of poor farmers by providing an additional product to the family economy that would not compete with food items, that would not displace forest land, and that could use marginal land to create an additional income. It promoted the formation of co-operatives of small producers to plant jatropha and to sell the oil to larger processors and, eventually, to large companies. It was developed and implemented by TechnoServe (PAC 2009, 1 TechnoServe 2008 2).
However, experiences from other parts of the world have shown yields far below expectations resulting in negative rates of return on investments. At the same time, a case study from Andhra Pradesh in India showed that the species used were prone to termite attacks and water logging, and were vulnerable to drought delaying yields (Kant and Wu 2011). 3
Relationship to CSA
If the problems of low yields and negative rates of return are resolved, the production of biofuel from Jatropha could have the potential to provide a “carbon neutral” energy source that contributes directly to mitigating climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and their associated emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In addition, biofuel production increases farmers’ resilience to climatic shocks by providing additional income from degraded land, even in seasons where food crops may suffer.
Impacts and lessons learned
A case study from 2012 (Barbee 2012) 4 on the TNS Guatemala project found that as in other parts of the world, plant yields had been low and progress on the establishment of processing centers had been slow. By the end of 2010 there was only one operating seed collection/extraction center, and two others were in the process of being established.
On a more general level, there have recently been new big investments in jatropha by agribusinesses on basis of the development of new better yielding hybrids. However, it is still an open question when or whether jatropha will become “the small farmer-friendly green fuel that does not displace food crops and has low environmental impact” (Pearce 2013). 5
PAC. 2009. Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives: Brief description and preliminary lessons on livelihood impacts from case studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; PISCES.ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/aj991e/aj991e.pdf This report is based on a series of 15 international case studies conducted between September and November 2008 under a joint initiative of FAO and the PISCES Energy Research Programme Consortium funded by DFID. The case studies focussed on developing an improved understanding of the linkages between Livelihoods and SmallScale Bioenergy Initiatives. The study was developed in consultation with the PISCES Consortium Advisory Group (CAG). This is made up of leading international participants in the field of energy and development, including members from the IEA, UNEP, ENERGIA, DFID and FAO, as well as policymakers and research organisations in the PISCES target countries of India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. The focus of the study was on the impacts that different types of local level Bioenergy initiatives can have on Rural Livelihoods in different contexts in the developing world. Livelihoods are understood as the enhancement of the full range of natural, financial, human, social and physical capitals on a sustainable ongoing basis.
TechnoServe. 2008. Biodiesel for rural development: lessons from Guatemala on how to increase livelihoods for the poor.http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/docs/statement08/lionel_lopez.pdf This presentation focuses on the use of biodiesel and its impact on rural development, particularly on small farmers in Guatemala. Technoserve is a non-for-profit organization based in Washington that takes action for rural development at the international level, modeling and implementing sustainable solutions for small-scale producers. The organization focuses on entrepreneurship, making its primary mission the implementation of sustainable business models based on an integrated approach and taking into account environmental and social considerations.
Kant P, Wu S. 2011. The Extraordinary Collapse of Jatropa as a Global Biofuel. Environmental Science & Technology 45(17):7114-7115.http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es201943v Blending of fossil diesel with biodiesel is an important climate change mitigation strategy across the world. In 2003 the Planning Commission of India decided to introduce mandatory blending over increasingly larger parts of the country and reach countrywide 30% blending status by the year 2020 and opted for nonedible oilseed species of Jatropha curcus raised over lands unsuited to agriculture as it was considered to be high in oil content, early yielding, nonbrowsable and requiring little irrigation and even less management. In a massive planting program of unprecedented scale millions of marginal farmers and landless people were encouraged to plant Jatropha across India through attractive schemes. But the results are anything but encouraging. In India the provisions of mandatory blending could not be enforced as seed production fell far short of the expectation and a recent study has reported discontinuance by 85% of the Jatropha farmers.
Barbee M. 2012. Creating a Biodiesel Industry to Impact the Rural Poor in Guatemala. The Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities, University of Colorado.https://mcedc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/Jatropha%20Biofuels%20Case%20Study%20May%202012.pdf The biodiesel market is growing worldwide in order to augment the fossil hydrocarbon sources of fuel for the planet’s diverse energy services. Investors and suppliers have been looking for high-yielding, hardy, and energy-dense plant sources of oil for decades in order to compete with the share that diesel has in global markets. Jatropha Curcas, with its rich oil-bearing seed and reputedly high yields in poor soil has seen heavy investment in the last decade. The seeds of most varieties contain 35-45 % oil and the other portions of the seeds are rich in nutrients, which encourage the incorporation of the seed waste in value-added products. The main viable product from the seed cake waste is a simple organic fertilizer that can be applied on small or large-holder plots for improving yields of commercial or edible crops. The oil and seed cake contain curcin, which, in addition to other compounds, is composed of different types of phorbol esters—one of which is PMA, the most potent natural tumor-promoter known. There are numerous risks associated with the processing and application of raw seed cake fertilizer and this paper is intended to function as a resource for understanding the risks and to provide information and suggestions for mitigating the negative consequences. The background on Jatropha will be given, its value as a fertilizer, a description of the toxicity, the application of a risk assessment framework to a case in Guatemala, and finally, risk management recommendations for individuals, organizations, and private companies that are seeking to promote the cultivation of toxic strains of Jatropha curcas and the use of its waste streams.
Pearce F. 2013. Jatropha: it boomed, it busted, and now it’s back. CGIAR Research Program on Water, Lad and Ecosystems.https://wle.cgiar.org/thrive/2013/04/10/jatropha-it-boomed-it-busted-and-now-its-back This blog discusses the resurgence of the controversial biofuel Jatropha.