Understanding bioenergy conflicts: Case of a jatropha project in Kenya’s Tana Delta


Increasing global demand for green energy from developed nations has recently triggered a bioenergy rush which is having effects across continents. Thus, large extensions of land have been recently bought or leased in places like Africa to make way for large-scale plantations for biofuel. The present paper examines a concrete bioenergy conflict in the context of the main renewable energy policies, as well as in consideration of governance initiatives aiming at the sustainability of these developments:

AREVALO J, OCHIENG R, MOLA-YUDEGO B, GRITTEN D. 2014. Understanding bioenergy conflicts: Case of a jatropha project in Kenya’s Tana Delta.  Land Use Policy 41 (2014) 138–148.


Abstract: In recent years, conflicts related to tenure, management and utilization of natural resources, in particular bioenergy conflicts, are becoming increasingly common. Many bioenergy conflicts are related to plan-tation projects seeking to capitalize on the opportunity to profit from a combination of factors, centredon the enabling environment for biofuel plantation establishment found in many developing countries.This study analyses these and other related issues in a conflict in the Tana Delta in Kenya. The conflictis centred on a proposed 65,000 ha Jatropha curcas plantation for biodiesel by the Canadian companyBedford. Ethical Analysis, a conflict management and research tool, was employed to better understandthe underlying conflict causes. Shortcomings in the technical feasibility studies and participatory plan-ning processes were revealed, including a poor understanding of the different interests and values withregard to land tenure and traditional rights. While the adoption of Free, Prior and Informed Consent(FPIC) is proposed, also capacities and the regulatory framework need to be strengthened to improvetransparency, coordination, impact assessment and investment security. The study proposes ways to manage the ongoing conflict and discusses its implications for bioenergy governance.

Keywords: Bioenergy governance, Ethical Analysis, Conflict management


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