Sustainable Development for Whom and How: Exploring the Gaps between Popular Discourses and Ground Reality Using the Mexican Jatropha Biodiesel Case.

Publicado en Environmental Management, v. 59:912–923.

Banerjee, A., Halvorsen, K.E., Eastmond-Spencer, A. et al.

Año de publicación 2017


Proyecto CRN3035, CRN3105


In the last decade, jatropha-based bioenergy projects have gotten significant attention as a solution to various social, economic, and environmental problems. Jatropha&rsquos popularity stemmed out from different discourses, some real and some perceived, in scientific and non-scientific literature. These discourses positioned jatropha as a crop helpful in producing biodiesel and protecting sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels and increasing local, rural development by creating jobs. Consequently, many countries established national policies that incentivized the establishment of jatropha as a bioenergy feedstock crop. In this paper, we explore the case of jatropha bioenergy development in Yucatan, Mexico and argue that the popular discourse around jatropha as a sustainability and rural development tool is flawed. Analyzing our results from 70 semistructured interviews with community members belonging to a region where plantation-scale jatropha projects were introduced, we found that these projects did not have many significant social sustainability benefits. We conclude from our case that by just adding bioenergy projects cannot help achieve social sustainability in rural areas alone. In ensuring social sustainability of bioenergy projects, future policymaking processes should have a more comprehensive understanding of the rural socioeconomic problems where such projects are promoted and use bioenergy projects as one of the many solutions to local problems rather than creating such policies based just on popular discourses.