Bioshape Kilwa Jatropha Project, Tanzania


The Dutch company BioShape acquired a 50-year lease in 2006 for 81,000 ha of bio-diverse land in the Tanzanian Kilwa district to cultivate jatropha at a site located to the north of the Mavuji river, about 20km inland from Kilwa Masoko. It planned to sell biodiesel to the European Union market on the back of an EU Renewable Energy Directive that set a 10 per cent binding target for use of renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020. Huge tracts of land were cleared, much of it ecologically sensitive woodland. But one of the main investors in BioShape, Eneco Energie BV, pulled out in early 2009. In November 2009, the company ceased operations[2]. Areas of dispute stretch back to the beginning of the project, with allegations of irregularities in the Environmental Impact Assessment. Other concerns were around food security, because people left farming to work for Bioshape, where there were complaints of long working hours and poor pay. There were also concerns about the level of compensation paid for land as payments did not meet expectations. Furthermore, there were allegations that Bioshape was more interested in the land for its timber value as timber from forests cleared was exported.

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Basic Data
NameBioshape Kilwa Jatropha Project, Tanzania
ProvinceLindi Region
SiteKilwa district
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording to figures quoted by Inter Press Services, which the agency said came from a confidential business plan, Bioshape expected to earn up to $6 to 7-million in profits from logging and to use this money to partly subsidise its biofuel project. About 225 cubic metres of miombo timber was harvested from 70 hectares. The Bioshape concession included between 200,000 and 800,000 cubic metres of wood worth $50-150-million[4]. Bioshape estimated that it would employ 10,000 people, 3,000 from outside the district[6]. In terms of compensation, BioShape gave local authorities US$676,000, but only 40 per cent of this amount reached the farmers, with the rest going to the local government authority. Despite claims that biofuels could reduce carbon dioxide emissions, critics noted that the EIA had no life cycle analysis or evidence that cutting down forests, replacing it with jatropha and transporting it to Europe would result in carbon dioxide emission reductions.

Project Area (in hectares)81000
Level of Investment (in USD)9600000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesBioshape
Bio-Shape Tanzania Limited from Tanzania
Kempen and Co - a merchant bank
Eneco Energy
Relevant government actorsMinistry for Lands and Human Settlement, Ministry of Agriculture Tanzania, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Tanzania, National Environmental Management Council
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLand Rights Research and Resources Institute, WWF, Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM), Independent Monitor of Forest Law Enforcement and, Governance in Tanzania, Tanzania Forest Conservation Group
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Withdrawal of company/investment
It has been suggested that land acquired by BioShape should be transferred back to village level under the Village Land Act, 1999[1].
Development of AlternativesInstead of following an approach that seeks to attract foreign investors to the agricultural sector, activists believe the government should facilitate the development of the pastoral sector[1].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.While Bioshape has ceased operations in the area, outstanding issues include complaints about compensation and the clearing of forests. This project is an example of how biofuel projects - which often claim job creation potential - have failed to deliver.
Sources and Materials

National Biofuel Guidelines

Village Land Act, 1999

Land Act 1999


[1] Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (2010). Accumulation by land dispossession and labour devaluation in Tanzania. Available at . Accessed 29 January 2013.
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[2] Friends of the Earth International (2010). Jatropha: money doesnt grow on trees. Available at Accessed 29 January 2013.
[click to view]

[3] Independent Monitor of Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Tanzania (2009). Available at: Accessed 29 January 2013.
[click to view]

[4] Valentino, Stefano (2011). Tanzanias biofuel projects promise proves barren. Available at: Accessed 29 January 2013.
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[5] Peter G. Veit, Mercedes Stickler, Candy Schibli and Catherine Easton (2012). Biofuel Investments Threaten Local Land Rights in Tanzania. Available at: Accessed 29 January 2013.
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[6] Broadhurst, Tom (2011). Biofuels and Sustainability: A Case Study from Tanzania. Available at: Accessed 3 February 2013.
[click to view]


wa Simbeye, Finnigan (2010). This Dutch firm is cheating on biofuels. Available at Accessed 29 January 2013.
[click to view]

World Wide Fund for Nature (2009). Biofuel Industry Study, Tanzania. Available at: Accessed 3 February 2013.
[click to view]

Media Links

See for a number of photos related to the project. Accessed 3 February 2013.
[click to view]


Meta Information
ContributorPatrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014