Biofuels in Malawi: local impacts of feedstock production and policy implications

Authors Gondwe, T.; Gasparatos, A.; Johnson, F.X.; von Maltitz, G.; Luhanga, D.; Nyambane, A.
Year of Publication 2018
Type of Publication Journal Article
Open Access Yes


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. Untested biofuel crops such as jatropha should not be promoted by government, NGOs and the private sector, until sufficient data is available on yields, production costs and market value/demand. 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. Before promoting particular biofuel crops and development strategies, policy-makers need to weigh the expected benefits and costs for the short-term and long-term at local and national levels, in relation to their national environment and development goals andinternational commitments. 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.