Biofuels in Malawi: local impacts

Authors Gasparatos, A.; Johnson, F.X.; von Maltitz, G.; Luhanga, D.; Nyambane, A.; Gondwe, T.
Year of Publication 2017
Type of Publication Policy and Practice Brief


This ESPA Policy & Practice Brief by Alexandros Gasparatos et al. assesses whether sugarcane and jatropha production have helped tackle poverty in rural Malawi. They conclude:

  • Poverty alleviation and food security outcomes for those involved in the sugarcane sector vary but appear largely positive. Land use conversion for sugarcane production can have positive or negative environmental impacts. Policy-makers need to evaluate trade-offs across the different socioeconomic and environmental impacts to guide decisions that affect sugarcane development plans.
  • Jatropha production has minimal impact on food security and poverty alleviation, whether positive or negative. The low impact of jatropha is unlikely to change unless high-yielding jatropha varieties are tested in real conditions and market options improve.
  • Due to their potential role in global climate change mitigation, biofuel crops have more complex trade-offs compared to other largescale land-based development options. However, socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs at the local and national level will tend to be similar to other industrial crops.
  • There is a great potential for bioethanol to be used in the household sector as a cooking fuel, but the price has to be competitive with existing energy alternatives. This might be accomplished through regulating the charcoal sector and providing tax incentives to bioethanol producers and users.