What role have NGOs played in the promotion of Jatropha?

By Loes van Rooijen

Quote: Fieldwork also indicates that researchers, government officials, NGOs and broker companies, rather than farmers or plantation companies, have been the main actors in such projects.”

In Indonesia, not everything was decided between state companies and the government; an important role was also played by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both national and international, especially those with a focus on “appropriate technology.” “Appropriate technology” is simple technology that can be controlled and implemented by local populations and is usually associated with small and environmentally friendly developments that contribute to improving people’s livelihoods (1).

Worldwide, NGOs have played an important role in disseminating the popularity of jatropha as a solution for rural development as described for example by Hunsberger on Kenya (2, p.943-944) and Arora et al. on Tanzania (p.16). Even though in Indonesia most research focused on policy makers, government officials and researchers (3), NGOs also sometimes played an important intermediary role (4 p.125). They bought up seeds from farmers and proved to be necessary for connecting farmers’ organizations with funding and technology through their links with government agencies and universities. Appropriate-technology NGOs have been especially able to adopt jatropha, as it fits with their philosophy of local and bottom-up rural development. Jatropha thus seamlessly fitted into a sequence of other appropriate-technology-based rural development projects. By having both a large international network and knowledge of the local situation, these NGOs were in an excellent position to connect local problems with international discourses and policy solutions popular in the international donor community.

In Indonesia, the Dian Desa Foundation (YDD, Yayasan Dian Desa) is one such example of an appropriate-technology NGO involved in the promotion of jatropha. In cooperation with the Japanese NGO Asian People’s Exchange, it promoted energy self-sufficiency by introducing appropriate technology based on the use of jatropha for local electricity generation in Flores, eastern Indonesia. In Flores, electricity is generated by diesel power plants. The aim of the project was to substitute the use of fossil fuel with jatropha oil, in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy self-sufficiency in the area. Yayasan Dian Desa is an NGO that aims to improve the living standards of people through the use of appropriate technology. It has a lot of experience in the Sikka district, Eastern Indonesia mostly related to sanitation and clean drinking water projects. All of its projects are based on the philosophy of using appropriate technology.

The jatropha project is partly funded by the NGO, and partly by the Japanese government through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2008 the NGO began its project by planting jatropha. The NGO produced its own seedlings in order to guarantee the quality of the plant material (5). In 2006 the local government had begun propagating jatropha in the area, but, according to the NGO, the project failed, partly because of a lack of good-quality seedlings. Instead of using plant material from elsewhere, which might not have been suitable for the Sikka, the NGO decided to use cuttings of local plant material to cultivate its seedlings, thus ensuring that they were appropriate for the specific soil and water conditions in Sikka. The NGO selected cuttings from healthy jatropha plants with proven productivity. It involved the community in the preparation of the seedlings and provided technical guidance, while also establishing a structure of working groups and village facilitators.

The NGO’s reforestation program with jatropha was the result of the village consultation process. The village consultation process is part of an annually recurring process of bottom-up planning and budgeting for public resources. The main concern of the villagers of Magepanda was related to access to water; access to energy was only of secondary concern. Due to deforestation in the past, and the habit of using fire to regenerate grassland, the hills had become severely degraded and water sources were drying out. The village administration sent a letter to the NGO with a request to help them reforest the degraded areas with jatropha (5, p.6).

In 2008 the NGO began distributing quality jatropha seedlings and providing technical assistance to the farmers planting jatropha (6, p.13). They also constructed the necessary infrastructure for a local biofuel sector, including collection and storage centers and a processing center in the western part of the district, near the airport. This factory is the only jatropha factory on Flores Island. They purchased several screw presses and filter machines, and constructed storage silos on the premises. The factory also had a desalinization plant and a roasting unit installed – the latter to toast the jatropha seeds in order to extract more oil during the pressing process (7). By integrating a desalinization module in the program, Yayasan Dian Desa attempted to accommodate local concerns within the program plan.

Jatropha based biofuel produced by the NGO PUSPHA . Photo: Loes van Rooijen,   Wairita (Flores),  January 2014.

Jatropha based biofuel produced by the NGO PUSPHA . Photo: Loes van Rooijen, Wairita (Flores), January 2014.

Thus, the NGO played an important role in linking global narratives with local concerns. They connected abstract global concerns about climate change and carbon emission reduction with daily local concerns about land degradation and the depletion of water resources. By linking these concerns they were able to generate the necessary knowledge, funding and technology to promote jatropha. The NGO was successful in attracting funding, as it had knowledge of the global debate and local issues. The implementation of the program, however, still faced some challenges. Access to land and labor proved to be limited. As a consequence, securing feedstock became problematic as farmers were not motivated by the price for jatropha and preferred to cultivate other crops.


  1. Barett, H. and C. Bull, Appropriate Technology, Tools, Choices and Implications (Academic Press, San Diego, 1998).
  2. C. Hunsberger, The politics of jatropha-based biofuels in Kenya: Convergence and divergence among NGOs, donors, government officials and farmers, Journal of   Peasant Studies 37(4) (2010) p 943-944.
  3. Y. A. Fatimah, S. Yuliar, Opening the Indonesian biofuel box: How scientists modulate the social. International Journal of Actor Network Theory 1(2) (2009).
  4. S. Amir, I. Nurlaila, S. Yuliar, Cultivating energy, reducing poverty: Biofuel          development in an Indonesian village, Perspectives on Global Development and           Technology 7, 113-132 (2008) p. 125.
  5. PUSPHA, Pengembangan energi terbarukan: Menuju kemandirian energi. Damar:       Majalah Pusat Teknologi Tepat Guna Jatropha 1 (2009) pp.1-15.
  6. PUSPHA, Strategi pembibitan secara cermat. Damar: Majalah Pusat Teknologi Tepat Guna Jatropha 2 (2009)pp. 1-15.
  7. PUSPHA, Rangkaian kegiatan industri jarak pagar. Damar: Majalah Pusat Teknologi     Tepat Guna Jatropha  1 (2010) pp.1-15.

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What role have NGOs played in the promotion of Jatropha? by JARAK the short history of Jatropha projects in Indonesia, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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