Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Hope or hype: A critical assessment of Jatropha curcas for domestic biofuel production in Senegal

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posted on 2021-11-14, 11:52 authored by Campbell, David

This thesis was designed to critically test the suitability of Jatropha curcas as a plant feedstock for liquid biofuel production in Senegal. Many countries around the globe have attempted to incorporate bioenergy into their broader energy supply mix, and liquid biofuels are a key component of a low-carbon economy to replace fossil fuels for transport and electrical generation. The Senegalese government instituted a national biofuel plan between 2007 and 2012 to achieve energy independence through biofuels with an annual production target of more than a billion liters of oil. The plan was intended to reduce problems with energy scarcity and price fluctuations, contribute to local economic growth, and expand agricultural production to degraded or otherwise fallow land. The project was largely unsuccessful, and to date there has been no significant oil production from Jatropha curcas for the national energy supply.  This research study was developed to understand the key barriers to the success of this program and mitigate the mistakes of future project developers and policymakers. Preliminary literature reviews and examples from similar endeavors in other countries suggested three main barriers that would be primary determinants of success or failure: the agronomic suitability, and therefore production and yield capacity, of Jatropha curcas to the Senegalese climate; the socio-economic challenges of integrating a broad national plan with smallholder farmers and assuring that the economics are fair for both growers and buyers; and the policy framework developed by government agencies, development organizations, and commercial interests to support an emergent biofuel industry. A mixed-method research design including document reviews, interviews and surveys, and case studies was employed to answer the key questions of why and how the Senegalese biofuel program has failed to achieve its intended goals.  Results from this study indicate that Jatropha curcas is unsuitable as a plant feedstock for liquid biofuels in Senegal at this time, due to significant shortcomings in all three key categories examined. The plant is vastly underproductive and requires considerable investment in scientific improvement of yield, pest tolerance and seed oil content; the economic gain is neither adequate to justify smallholder farmers to adopt it as an alternative to existing crops nor for project developers to generate income from fuel on the open market; and supporting policy has not been consistent or favorable enough to carry this emergent industry from nascence to maturity. There are, however, encouraging signs of resilience in two particular case studies that provide insight into how future programs could be structured, most notably in the Sine-Saloum Delta region. Further research should be devoted to specific economic schemes and innovative financing options for community focused biofuel programs.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Chapman, Ralph