Ambitious plans for Jatropha cultivation in India

Ambitious plans for Jatropha cultivation in India

The main crops grown in India as sources of ethanol and biodiesel are sugar cane and the much-praised "wonder nut", jatropha. The Indian government plans to use eleven million hectares of land solely for cultivating jatropha bushes. According to the government, the advantages of jatropha, which is known here as the physic nut, is that it has no impact on the cultivation of food. This is because it is grown on poor quality land, which means that no valuable arable land has to be given over to fuel production.

In reality, however, local people use much of this supposed wasteland for grazing livestock or for gathering wood and edible plants. Besides, jatropha cultivation is only worthwhile if the nut bushes are watered and, where possible, fertilised as well. However, water is a resource which is already in scarce supply in the regions affected.
As has already happened in other countries, the creation of gigantic jatropha plantations is threatening to drive rural Indians away, resulting in the loss of their communally used land.
In the Indian state of Chattisgad, where SWISSAID is working with local communities, the government has earmarked millions of hectares of land which it says are suitable for growing jatropha. The areas of land classed as "wasteland" also include large swathes of woodland. Peasant farmers are enticed to create jatropa plantations with seeds which are at reduced prices, if not totally free.
Indigenous communities which SWISSAID's partners in Chattisgad work with are also affected by the government's jatropha plans. Up to now they have been successful in averting the cultivation of jatropha. The ethnic groups supported by SWISSAID are campaigning for land rights which will enable them to grow enough food to feed for their families and for the right to manage the woodland where they live. The indigenous communities' battle for the rights to use the land are hampered considerably by the government's jatropha plans