Evaluation of Jatropha Biofuels Value Chain for Sustainability and Food Security : a Conceptual Framework Approach
When the biofuels agenda gained momentum globally, many SADC member states considered to implement biofuels (take note: not bioenergy) programmes as they looked at the potential to diversify the agriculture sector and foster rural development in the region. Several projects, driven mainly by foreign investors, were introduced and implemented in ... the region but (most if not all) failed to deliver on the promises and left many people desperate. This eroded the trust that governments had in biofuels significantly. As a result, many SADC countries condemned Jatropha-based biofuels and even pronounced measures to discourage the introduction of biofuels as they feared that it would impact negatively on food production, the environment, economy and the people.Most of the SADC member states biophysical conditions are potentially suitable to grow most of the suggested feedstock crops as there seem to be a comparable abundant suitable land to grow both energy and food crops. This is true especially for Angola, DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. Even though the SADC region has agricultural ecological conditions and adequate policy framework that can support most biofuels feedstock production, there is very little evidence to show on the ground in terms of biofuels projects except for the ethanol generation capacities and programme in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.This study contributed to finding possible solutions to a very complex problem of biofuels value chain development, food security and sustainability by evaluating the potentials, conditions and challenges of agro-based feedstock production systems in the SADC region. A conceptual Diversion-Based Evaluation Framework (DBEF) that integrates other assessment tools was developed and applied to evaluate potential diversions and their impacts at project, national and/or even sub continental-region levels. A mixed methods research design approach to inquiry that combines both qualitative and quantitative empirical methods was therefore adopted to conduct this research. It involved conducting experiments to assess the potential of Jatropha and other energy crops in relation to biophysical conditions, CO2 sequestration and climate change mitigation, development of a diversion-based evaluation framework (DBEF), conducting questionnaire driven surveys, interest and expert groups interviews, performing target beneficiary assessment and meta evaluations of implemented projects for sustainability and food security using the framework.Several projects implemented using different feedstock production models in four SADC countries were used to evaluate biofuels value chain development risks against sustainability and potential to harm food production and food security. Diversion of land was found to be of considerable high risk for investor and PPP driven models even in countries with abundant arable land and water (due to potential displacements) while farm input diversions (e.g. labour, finances, extension services) were identified to pose potential high risk for out-grower production models.This study concluded that a hybrid integrated approach to designing policies and programmes for biofuel value chains that puts local needs and context, triangulated with national or Africa sub-continental macro-economic needs aspects, is critical for sustainability than a neo-liberal top-down approach. The later tend to create dependencies that can cause disruption of food production systems, markets and possible irreparable damage to people s livelihoods and the environment in medium to long terms.