The political ecology of Jatropha plantations for biodiesel in Tamil Nadu, India

Pere Ariza-Montobbio, Sharachchandra Lele, Giorgos Kallis, Joan Martinez-Alier

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114 Citations (Scopus)


Jatropha curcas is promoted internationally for its presumed agronomic viability in marginal lands, economic returns for small farmers, and lack of competition with food crops. However, empirical results from a study in southern India revealed that Jatropha cultivation, even on agricultural lands, is neither profitable, nor pro-poor. We use a political ecology framework to analyse both the discourse promoting Jatropha cultivation and its empirical consequences. We deconstruct the shaky premises of the dominant discourse of Jatropha as a 'pro-poor' and 'pro-wasteland' development crop, a discourse that paints a win-win picture between poverty alleviation, natural resource regeneration, and energy security goals. We then draw from fieldwork on Jatropha plantations in the state of Tamil Nadu to show how Jatropha cultivation favours resource-rich farmers, while possibly reinforcing existing processes of marginalisation of small and marginal farmers. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-897
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2010


  • Biofuels
  • India
  • Jatropha
  • Marginalisation
  • Political ecology


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