Despite the extensive promotion of biofuel crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as jatropha and sugarcane, there are no robust studies exploring how their production affects rural income generation. Using statistical research methods, this paper assesses the impact of different types of engagement in biofuel crop production on people’s livelihoods in southern Africa.

The authors assess the impacts of biofuel production on household income and expenditures across three comparative bases (i.e., total, per capita, per adult equivalent). Four study sites are examined representing the main biofuel feedstocks (sugarcane, jatropha), modes of production (small-scale, large-scale) and production practices (irrigated, rainfed) that have been promoted in southern Africa.

Overall, the results suggest that livelihood outcomes vary between crops, types of involvement, modes of production and institutional arrangements. These findings have important implications for rural development strategies in the region.