Universiteit Leiden

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Research project


“JARAK: the commoditization of an alternative biofuel crop in Indonesia” was a research program from 2010-2014 in which researchers from Indonesia and the Netherlands collaborated.

2010 - 2014
Jacqueline Vel

Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) was that biofuel crop which - in the early 2000s – seemed to become a good alternative for oil palm which was widely criticized because of its negative effects on the environment and biodiversity.  Jatropha promised much: clean non-fossil energy, and new income sources in marginal areas that grew the crop. This promise inspired million dollar investments in plantations – in Indonesia and elsewhere – and plans for many more. In only a few years jatropha, an ordinary hedge plant known as jarak pagar in Indonesian, was turned into a valuable commodity for energy production. The JARAK research program investigated these claims objectively. It traced the rise of jatropha as a commercial crop in Indonesia, assessing the assumptions underlying its introduction, investigating the production potential in Indonesian circumstances, and identifying how legislation, governance and policies support local producers’ livelihoods. More abstractly, JARAK studied how innovations for ‘agriculture beyond food’ induce commoditization, making local producers core actors in addressing worldwide problems, and in turn exposing them to both livelihood opportunities and threats. 

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