Jatropha as Biofuel: An Analysis of the Possible Implications for Food Security in Mali
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Biofuels feature prominently in global climate change and energy security strategies. However, while concerns about climate change and energy security persist, the positive perception of biofuels has weakened in recent years, largely in response to their effects on food security. It is in the midst of such criticisms that jatropha is rapidly gaining momentum as a biofuel feedstock. Jatropha biofuel is said to avoid negative repercussions on food security because: 1) it will not compete with food crops and 2) it will contribute to rural development. These two claims imply that jatropha will not only avoid negative effects on food security, it will also enhance food security through rural development. This relationship between jatropha biofuel and food security has not been sufficiently explored. This study sought to address this critical gap by conducting a study on the possible food security implications of jatropha biofuel in Mali. The two aforementioned claims were critically analyzed and evaluated in this paper to determine their legitimacy in the context of Mali. This helped to identify the possible effects of jatropha biofuel production on food security in Mali. The study found that jatropha has a strong potential to weaken food security, especially in a country as vulnerable as Mali. However, the current jatropha biofuel project, headed by a company called Malibiocarburant, has been structured in such a way that avoids this potential, and instead provides opportunities to enhance food security. Policy, practice and research recommendations are provided in light of the results from this study.