The Max Havelaar fair trade Jatropha feasibility study (By Ab van Peer, Agronomy consultant in this project.

(Text and comments are the view of the author and not necessarily from Max Havelaar)

The project has been finalized by december 2013. Download the  General report here

Download the Agronomy report here



Under coordination of Max Havelaar Netherlands, Fairtrade Labeling Organizations (FLO) has been carrying out a feasibility study into the Fairtrade certification of Jatropha. This project was supported by the Global Sustainable Biomass Fund, a fund commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by NL Agency. Other partners executing the study in the consortium with Max Havelaar and FLO were the development organization Interchurch Organization for Cooperation and Development (ICCO), the energy company Eneco and the Tanzanian farmers union Kagera Co-operative Union Ltd. (KCU) in Bukoba.


The biomass sector could provide economic opportunities for countries in the South, provided sustainability criteria are strictly adhered to. International trade chains do not automatically include smallholders, yet 75% of all poor people in the world live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their living. When new markets emerge, focused efforts are needed to ensure that smallholders can directly share in the opportunities and returns such markets can bring.


The study assessed whether a draft of Fairtrade standards for Jatropha can be implemented

a.      in the management context of small farmers organizations;

b.      avoiding negative (indirect) effects on food security;

c.      contributing to improved farm management, diversification, better local access to energy and additional income on household and community level.

The study will evaluated models for long term economic viability throughout the trade chain. It investigated the scalability of results, by looking into their applicability in other producing countries and into the possible application of matching Fairtrade principles in the plantation sector.  The learning of the study will be captured in a guide geared for use in smallholder organizations.


The Fairtrade standards aspire to enhance and exceed the existing biomass criteria on two points in particular:

         The certified producer organization will have a direct, auditable responsibility with regard to food security.

 The pilot aims to test if an increased productivity in food crops can be the outcome of well-managed diversification into Jatropha that deals efficiently and careful with natural resources.

         The standards will require traders to make a proportion of the energy value of the produced Jatropha available for application and use locally.

Project results

-          Developing Fairtrade criteria and the audit system

-          Setting up a chain and pilots in Tanzania

-          Baseline studies in two other ODA-countries

-          Put together a Jatropha manual for small scale farmers


In the first phase of the project (2009-beginning of 2010) a pilot methodology and farmer guidance has been developed. Field orientation and consultation of stakeholders in Tanzania has taken place.  Agronomist training and a growing manual was also realized.

By October 2010 pilots have been started on three different locations (See map)

Each pilot consists of a selection field, a nursery and a demonstration field

download manual

Objectives of the demonstration field. In a completely randomized trial with four repetitions and five treatments the following objectives had to be realized:

1.Introduce mixed cropping system for Jatropha and food crops
2.Prove that Maize (or other food crops) can be grown together with Jatropha. (Due to rumours and failed plantings there is a perception among the farmers that Jatropha affects other crops negatively)
3.Prove that Jatropha seedcake is as good as organic manure as a fertilizer.
4.Prove that by introducing good food seed varieties, manure or fertilizer and good agricultural practices, farmers can use 40% of their land for Jatropha without loosing food production. (this requires a 66% yield increase)


While the objective was to reach at least 2.46 MT, the seedcake trials performed statistically better. (resp.3.4 and 4.27MT)

In this demonstration trial it was easy to increase maize yield by more than 100% (compared to farmers practice) through implementing sound and simple agricultural practices.

1.preparing the soil well

2.applying manure or Jatropha seedcake

3.planting the right maize variety

4.planting at the right time

5.planting in rows to facilitate weeding

6.weeding in time

The agronomical results are going to be supplemented by economic research in order to define what fair trade standards will have to entail.

In the mean time a farmers guide in Kiswahili has been realized as well.                                                            Download Kiswahili guide here

The above mentioned trial was repeated in the 2012 rainy season with even better results, as shown on the graph below. Final evaluation of the project will be by the end of this year.



By using 2 tons per ha seedcake at a value of Euro 200 the farmer yielded an extra 2.8 tons of maize at a value of Euro 560

Once when his Jatropha plants will yield (1000 plants/ha), he will be able to collect at least 1000 kg of seeds at a sales price of 0.15 which makes another 150 Euro.

If the farmer is a cooperative member, he probably shares in the profit or the savings (in the case of own energy production) the cooperative makes with the Jatropha oil.


This is a comparison based on market prices. Costs of labour and handling are not included




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