Rapid Sustainability Appraisal of Collapsed Jatropha Projects in Ghana Using Local Community Perceptions: Methodological Implications for Sustainability Science

  • Abubakari AhmedEmail author
  • Alexandros Gasparatos


In the mid-2000s, Ghana experienced a biofuel boom driven by jatropha expansion, but within a few years almost all jatropha projects within the country collapsed. Limited community participation in biofuel project planning has played a key role in the failure of the projects, which have had a range of sustainability impacts on the local environment and society. Understanding the patterns of sustainability impacts through community perceptions can provide information that could enhance the sustainability of future biofuel projects in the country. By using a rapid sustainability appraisal that captures community perceptions, the present chapter compares the sustainability impacts experienced by communities around three failed jatropha projects in Ghana with those captured in their respective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports. The authors found a mismatch between the impacts experienced by communities and those assessed in EIAs that arises, to an extent, from the limited participation of communities in the project planning and EIA processes. The findings suggest the need for adopting a bottom-up approach for the identification and selection of sustainability impact criteria. Sustainability science scholars can use rapid sustainability appraisals to gain an initial understanding of a given study area, in order to inform the framing of the research questions and help in the selection of an appropriate methodology to collect and analyse actual data through subsequent fieldwork.


Biofuel Community participation Environmental impact assessment Jatropha Project collapse Rapid appraisal Ghana 



The authors acknowledge financial support of the Japan Science and Technology Council (JST) through the funding of Belmont Forum project FICESSA. AA is supported by a Monbukagakusho scholarship offered by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and through the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science–Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI), at the University of Tokyo.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Program in Sustainability Science-Global Leadership Initiative, Graduate School of Frontier SciencesThe University of TokyoKashiwa, ChibaJapan
  2. 2.Integrated Research Systems for Sustainability Science (IR3S)The University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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