A comparative analysis of costs and benefits of Jatropha, maize and orange production in Kenya: case of contracted farmers in Shimba Hills

Energy demand and supply imbalances are a major challenge to development in Sub Saharan African countries. Reliance on petroleum as well as biomass energy sources is both uneconomical and unsustainable. These call for exploration of other sustainable energy sources such as biofuel, solar and wind energies to supplement the existing sources. Biofuels have been identified as potential and most economical sources of alternative fuel with tropical countries having a comparative advantage in cultivating them. The problem is whether production of biofuel feedstock is a feasible alternative to other enterprises. The purpose of this study was to assess production and management and evaluate the feasibility of producing Jatropha as a biofuel feedstock in comparison with production of other economic crops among contracted farmers in Shimbahills. A structured questionnaire was used to interview all the Energy Africa contracted farmers on: their faming system, cost and benefits of producing Jatropha in relation to two economic crops (maize and oranges) in the study area. It was found out that contract farming gives an incentive for farmers to engage in Jatropha production. However Jatropha was found to be less profitable compared to other enterprises in the study area. Formulation of policies and coordinated research to guide production of Jatropha would go a great way in improving Jatropha productivity. Formalizing contracts will also reduce opportunism and give incentive for good management practices. Keywords: Jatropha curcas; cost benefit analysis, Kwale, Kenya