Despite setbacks, interest in jatropha cultivation remains high. This study addressed the question to what extent jatropha cultivation has replaced specific vegetation and land use types and how the existing areas are managed.
Major forms of land use change and management practices were identified based on cluster analysis of data from 106 interviewees’ responses to a comprehensive global survey. Of the 1.04 × 106 ha cultivated with jatropha in 2011, 40% were established on land that was cleared of vegetation as a result of logging activities unrelated to jatropha cultivation, 34% was defined as unused, and the remainder was attributable to areas previously used for crops or animal husbandry.
With the exception of croplands, these areas were dominated (90–98%) by a few internationally active companies whose cultivation models were almost exclusively based on outgrower schemes. Management practices were largely extensive in nature (low mechanical input and infrequent use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides), and also dominated by large projects.
Broad surveys, such as this, are useful in identifying general trends in this emerging global industry, but detailed case studies, particularly of large projects, are needed in order to draw more informed conclusions about the site-specific impacts of jatropha cultivation.
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