Understanding the underlying mechanisms of recent Jatropha curcas L. adoption by smallholders in Kenya: A rural livelihood assessment in Bondo, Kibwezi, and Kwale districts

Mogaka, Violet; Ehrensperger, Albrecht; Iiyama, Miyuki; Birtel, Martin; Heim, Eva; Gmuender, Simon (2014). Understanding the underlying mechanisms of recent Jatropha curcas L. adoption by smallholders in Kenya: A rural livelihood assessment in Bondo, Kibwezi, and Kwale districts. Energy for sustainable development, 18, pp. 9-15. International Energy Initiative 10.1016/j.esd.2013.11.010

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Between 2004 and 2007, NGOs, community based organisations and private investors promoted jatropha in Kenya with the aim of generating additional income and producing biofuel for rural development. By 2008 it became gradually evident that jatropha plantations (both mono- and intercropping) are uneconomical and risky due to competition for land and labour with food crops. Cultivation of jatropha hedges was found to have better chances of economic success and to present only little risks for the adopting farmers. Still, after 2008 a number of farmers went on adopting jatropha in plots rather than as hedges. It is hypothesised that lack of awareness about the low economic prospects of jatropha plantations was the main reason for continued adoption, and that smallholder farmers with higher resource endowments mainly ventured into its cultivation. In this study we provide an empirical basis for understanding the role of households' capital assets in taking up new livelihood strategies by smallholder farmers in three rural districts in Kenya. For that purpose, we assess the motivation and enabling factors that led to the adoption of jatropha as a new livelihood strategy, as well as the context in which promotion and adoption took place. A household survey was conducted in 2010, using a structured questionnaire, to collect information on household characteristics and capital asset endowment. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and non-parametric statistical tests. We established that access to additional income and own energy supply were the main motivation for adoption of jatropha, and that financial capital assets do not necessarily have a positive influence on adoption as hypothesised. Further, we found that the main challenges that adopting farmers faced were lack of access to information on good management practices and lack of a reliable market. We conclude that continued adoption of on-farm jatropha after 2008 is a result of lacking awareness about the low economic value of this production type. We recommend abandoning on-farm production of jatropha until improved seed material and locally adapted agronomic knowledge about jatropha cultivation becomes available and its production becomes economically competitive.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Ehrensperger, Albrecht and Heim, Eva


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




International Energy Initiative


[418] Bioenergy in Africa Official URL




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Date Deposited:

06 Aug 2014 08:28

Last Modified:

23 Nov 2015 14:58

Publisher DOI:






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