Jatropha. The pinion and the dispossession of land

Jatropha. The pinion and the dispossession of land

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By Elizabeth Bravo

There are many myths that are woven around this plant. In many cases the plantations have been made against the will of the communities.

There are many myths that are woven around this plant, which should not be called cultivation, because it is in the process of domestication. That it does not need water, that it does not need fertilizers, that pests do not fall on it, that it does not compete with food production, because it grows where nothing else grows, which has been shown by the literature to be false.

For this reason, it is valid to ask what is the true interest in the pine nut, since it is one of the crops that is most promoted especially in the poorest countries of the world, and it is even seen as the way out of the situation of poverty and marginality that live some communities throughout the so-called Third World.

One possible explanation is that hand in hand with the expansion of energy crops, a process of occupation of immense areas has been generated that in the case of other crops have been lands dedicated to the production of food, or natural ecosystems, and that in the In the case of the piñón, these are lands considered marginal. This change of hands of the land (generally foreign hands) has occurred through the purchase or legal usurpation of land. In the case of the piñón, these are lands occupied by very traditional communities: adapted to live in a delicate balance with highly fragile ecosystems, bearers of great cultural wealth, and custodians of exquisite biodiversity.

Thus, in recent years an invasion of European, American, Australian, Japanese, Korean and Arab investors has begun, involved in an aggressive land purchase process in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. There is also a lot of Brazilian investment in African countries, specifically in the field of biofuels.

Not all of these investments are related to the development of crops dedicated to the production of agrofuels. For example, the Arabs are in search of their food security, since they have their own marginal lands that have been deteriorating with so many years of exploitation (GRAIN, 2008).

In other cases the investments are directed to multipurpose projects, to the energy plantations are added the large-scale generation of other alternative sources of energy that require vast areas, such as wind and solar energy, urban development and possibly the control of certain resources. strategic such as water, because although the pine nut is located in dry ecosystems, these areas often have important reserves of groundwater.

The purchase of land occurs at the private level, sometimes in partnership with governments, and in others, involving local communities.

For some analysts, these investments are the only way out for Africa, which in the case of land acquired in the sub-Saharan region is almost always related to plantations of Jatropha or other energy crops. For others, it is a process of neo-colonialism in the region.

In any case, the purchase of land is taking place, as was the case with the Korean company Daewoo, which did not obtain a license in Madagascar to plant an area of ​​1.3 million hectares with oil palm, due to the great opposition it had. this project nationwide (The New Security Beat, 2009).

The Tanzania Investment Center aims to attract this type of investment to the country. Thus, the British company Sun Biofuel Tanzania acquired 9,000 hectares in the Kisarawe district to plant pine nuts. The peasants who lost their land will receive compensation in return. In Mozambique, requests to acquire land represent twice the area devoted to food production (Haralambous et al, 2009: 3).

In the Philippines, the Spanish biodiesel company Bionor Transformación SA is in the process of investing 200 million dollars to use 100,000 hectares in pine nut plantations, and on the island of Mindanao, the consortium of Japanese and Korean investors Bio Corporation plans to occupy 50 thousand hectares with the same crop (Haralambous et al, 2009: 3).

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is perhaps the one that is facing this phenomenon of land purchase with the most violence, after the civil war that lasted decades has ended. Amid this great confusion of land ownership changes, the German aid agency DED is promoting Jatropha plantations in the North Darfur region.

These are just some examples of what is happening in the Third World, a process that could be endorsed by FAO when it argues that FAO estimates that there are some two billion hectares in the world that could be introduced to agriculture, although it acknowledges that at least 500 million (a quarter) should be left uncultivated for environmental reasons, and identifies six countries with the greatest potential: Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia (Fisher, 2001).

Thousands of hectares that could be planted with Jatropha, these countries hope to attract enough investment to turn these areas into economic areas of power (Jatropha Investors and Financing, 2008).

Open access to land is therefore one of the most motivating issues for piñón investors.

Once investors have the land, they become beneficiaries of the advantages granted by legislation in most countries of the world, in their desire to promote the expansion of agrofuels.

Pine nut exports, whether as raw or processed material, will be directed mostly to the European Union, where countries must meet certain goals to replace fossil fuels with agrofuels. In the European Union, the fuel that is used the most is diesel, unlike what happens in the United States where gasoline is preferred. That is why most of the biodiesel produced in the Third World is destined for the European market; that the companies that work the most for the pine nut are European, and that European cooperation is the one that most promotes pine nut plantations in various parts of the world.

It is therefore not surprising that European companies are investing the most heavily in pine nut plantations, and that the main plantations are established in their former colonies.

The situation in India

The country where pine nut plantations have been most promoted and established is India. At the end of last year the government announced its National Biofuels Policy, in which it is stated that 20% of the national demand for diesel will be obtained from plants, for which 140 thousand square kilometers will be needed for this purpose. At the moment in India there are about five thousand square kilometers dedicated to energy crops. Among the crops contemplated to comply with this national plan is Jatropha.

Former President of India Abdul Kalam is one of the great promoters of the pinion. He has pointed out that in India there are some 600 thousand square kilometers of wasteland, and that at least 300 thousand could be dedicated to Jatropha plantations.

In this pinion promotion campaign, the State Bank of India signed a memorandum of understanding with a subsidiary company of D1 Oil, which in India takes the name of D1 Mohan. Through this agreement, the bank agrees to open a 1.3 billion rupee line of credit for local farmers who want to get into the pinion business. The farmers must repay the loan with the money that D1 Mohan will pay them for the purchase of the pine nut seeds. A contract farming scheme.

The fuel to be produced from the pinion oil can be exported or destined for domestic consumption. In both cases D1 has a market. India is a large enough market to become an attractive business, but it is also a net exporter at the moment. The important thing for the company is to control the chain.

But there are more companies investing in pine nut plantations in India, including Godrej Agrovet Ltd, Tata Motors, Indian Oil Corporation, Kochi Refineries Ltd, Biohealthcare Pvt, Biotechnologies Ltd, Jain irrigation System Ltd, Natural Bioenergy Ltd and Reliance Energy. Ltd. Another possible user of Jatropha biodiesel is the Indian Railways company, which is planning to use its arid and semi-arid lands along the tracks to establish plantations of this plant. India has become an exporter of pine nut seeds to the rest of the world.

Vandana Shiva and Manu Sankar have recently published a study on the impacts that Jatropha plantations have had on various traditional tribes in the Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. They maintain that the implantation of these crops in tribal territories has violated the right of communities to make decisions about the use of the land, has disrupted the local organization, bypassing the traditional authorities, and has endangered the valuable land. local biodiversity, since in these tribes, especially in the State of Chhattisgarh up to two thousand varieties of rice are maintained. In many cases the plantations have been made against the will of the communities (Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, 2007).

The pinion and the aeronautical industry

Perhaps the business sector that has advanced the most in the commercial use of pine nut oil as an agrofuel is aviation.

The first airline to use biofuels on a flight was Virgin Atlantic, which flew between London and Amsterdam using 20% ​​biofuel based on coconut oil and babaçú nut oil in February 2008.

On December 30, 2008, the New Zealand airline Air New Zealand - in collaboration with Boeing and Rolls-Royce, respectively in charge of manufacturing the engines and the aircraft - made a first test flight, in which they used a mixture of kerosene (known as jet fuel) and 50% pine nut oil. The pinion used in the flight came from plantations in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania (Wassener, 2008).

Air New Zealand argued that its experiment should be done on the basis of three non-negotiable points, among them that the fuel used does not compete with food crops. That is, it comes from land that is not used in any agricultural / food activity. For the company, the pine nut plantations in Malawi or Mozambique are possibly made on marginal lands.

Subsequently, on January 7 of this year, Continental carried out a test flight in which it used a mixture that included biodiesel based on algae and pinion oil; and on January 30, Japan Airlines made an experimental flight using a mixture that contained 50% biodiesel based on camelina oil, pine nut and algae.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) aims for its 230 member airlines to use 10% alternative fuels by 2017, and not to depend on fossil fuels in 50 years. In its policy on alternative fuels, IATA maintains that it will support research for the development of energy crops that do not compete with freshwater requirements or with food production. Nor will they support crops that cause deforestation or generate other environmental impacts such as the destruction of biodiversity (IATA, 2007).

The Convention on Climate Change has not yet discussed the responsibility of the international aviation industry in global warming, although it could be attributed 5% of total CO2 emissions, but it is an issue that must be addressed and the business sector aspires to be Prepare a global reduction strategy for the aeronautical industry, so as not to analyze the reductions that each company would have to make, country by country. This was raised to the intergovernmental body of the United Nations that deals with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) issue. In this context, they aspire to the support of governments to accelerate the research of new fuels of agricultural origin, which do not compete with food production or access to water to meet human needs. In this scenario, the pine nut emerges as an important alternative for the aeronautical industry to meet its goals on the issue of climate change, since the statement that the pine nut is planted in areas where food is not produced has become almost a dogma .

The advantage they see in Jatropha oil as a substitute for kerosene or fuel oil is that this oil has a melting point of -47oC, very close to fuel oil, which is very important given the low atmospheric temperatures that can be reached at the height that airplanes fly. This is not the case for ethanol.

But the real goal of looking for alternative fuels is not climate change but oil price volatility, as Billy Glover, Boeing's environmental policy planner, puts it:

Even though the price of oil has dropped to US $ 50 after rising above US $ 100 a year ago, fuel continues to be the main cost for airlines, so it makes sense to continue investing (in alternative energy) ( The Sydney Morning Herald, 2009).

He added that

(…) The airlines do not have much room to negotiate prices with the big oil companies. On the other hand, the biofuel industry is much smaller and can give airlines an opportunity to negotiate prices, as they can play an important role in determining demand. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2009).

Aviation companies have taken the lead by forming the Sustainable Fuel Users Aviation Group, made up of ten companies that collectively use between 15 and 20% of kerosene globally. They are also part of the group Boeing and Honeywell, as well as the company responsible for refining the fuel, UOP. (Krypton Organic & Biofuel, 2008).

In this scenario, Geoff Hoon, British Minister of Transport, said that his government has invested one billion pounds sterling so that Rolls Royce and Airbus companies work on the development of these new fuels and new machines adapted to them, as the industry Aeronautics means for the United Kingdom an item that only in 2006 was 20 billion pounds.


Unlike other energy crops, where there is a strong investment from the largest oil companies, biotechnology companies, exporters of agricultural commodities, automobiles ... most of them are risk investors in El Piñón.

One of the sectors that have a special interest in pinion as an alternative fuel is the aeronautical industry due to the characteristics of pinion oil in terms of its resistance to resisting temperatures below -40oC.

One of the main incentives for investing in the piñón is the facilities that several countries in Africa and Asia are providing for the purchase of lands that are considered by the power groups as marginal, in this process depriving very traditional communities of their territories or denying them the right to use it in the way they have ancestrally done.

In this process there is also a violent process of appropriation of extensive territories by foreign entrepreneurs, whose interest may not even be to plant pine nuts but to access other resources.



Bravo Elizabeth 2007. Igniting the biofuels debate: Energy crops and food sovereignty in Latin America.

Creedy, Steve. 2009. From noxious weed to jet fuel. January 5, 2009.…)
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Fischer Günter, van Velthuizen Harrij, Medow Serge, Nachtergaele Freddy. 2001, Global Agro-ecological Assessment for Agriculture in the 21st Century, FAO and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria.

GRAIN. 2008. They take over the land !. The process of land grabbing for food and business security in 2008. Analysis document. pp 12. (Barcelona).

Haralambous S., Liversage H. and M. Romano M. The growing demand for land

Risks and opportunities for smallholder farmers. Governing Council. IDAF. Discussion Paper for Round Table 2. pp. 16. (Rome)

Jatropha Investors and Financing. Investing For The Future, Investing for the Environment.

IATA, 2007. Fact Sheet: Alternative Fuels.

Krypton Organic & Biofuels. Boeing Leads Biofuel Initiative. October 2, 2008.

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. 2007. Biofuel Hoax: Jatropha And Land Grab. Press Release presented on November 27, 2007.

The Guardian. Jatropha-fuelled plane touches down after successful test flight Air New Zealand plane flown on second-generation biofuel

The New Security Beat. Food, Water, Energy, Timber, Population: Do Madagascar’s Forests Stand a Chance? April 23, 2009.

The Sydney Morning Herald. Boeing, Airbus stick to biofuel plans. Tuesday, April 2, 2009

Wassener, Bettina. Airline Flies a 747 on Fuel From a Plant. New Zealand Herald, via Associated Press. December 30, 2008.

Yanos, Melana. Jatropha Fuels Land Investment. NuWire Investor. July 17, 2007

Video: FORD Rear Axle Pinion Seal Replace. 1990 Bronco Project! Differential Flange. Bearing and Seal (May 2022).


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