Greenhouse gas and energy balance of Jatropha biofuel production systems of Burkina Faso

Sophia Baumert, Asia Khamzina, Paul L.G. Vlek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Jatropha curcas has been introduced as a low-cost energy crop in Burkina Faso for the production of straight vegetable oil (SVO) and biodiesel. It is cultivated in different plantation systems including smallholder inter-plantings with annual crops, large-scale monoculture, afforestation on marginal land, in traditional hedge systems along contour stone walls, and in living fences. We performed Life Cycle Assessment of these Jatropha systems using empirical data on yields and carbon stocks, and accounting for changes in agro-ecosystem provisioning and regulating services that occurred after the land conversion to Jatropha. The study found that all J. curcas production pathways substantially reduced greenhouse gas emission (68–89%) and saved energy (65–90%) compared to diesel fuel. Highest values are achievable under the assumption that by-products (husks, seed cake, glycerin) are used for energy generation. The decentralized production of SVO supplied by feedstocks from intercropping and hedgerow systems seems to be most promising option. However, very low land-use efficiency (6.5–9.5 GJ ha− 1 production) characterized Jatropha intercropping and monoculture plantations, rendering the plant a competitor to food crops and increasing the risk of conversion of savanna land to Jatropha cultivation. Jatropha plantings on marginal lands largely failed. High labor requirements constrain integration of Jatropha plantation systems within small farmholdings. Currently, the traditional hedge systems show the lowest land-use replacement potential and labor needs while providing multiple ecosystem services, but alone cannot satisfy rural energy needs. In order to reach energy supply targets without claiming more land and compromising other ecosystem services, the J. curcas plantation systems in Burkina Faso need to be made more efficient through plant breeding and improved agronomic management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-23
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Dreyer Foundation (Germany). We thank all farmers in Burkina Faso for allowing investigations in their fields. Appendix A

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 International Energy Initiative


  • Intercropping
  • Jatropha by-products
  • Land-use change
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Straight vegetable oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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