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Bedford Biofuels Jatropha, Tana Delta, Kenya


Bedford Biofuels Ltd proposed to establish Jatropha plantations on 6 ranches in Tana Delta on 64,000 ha. Phase one would commence on 10,000 ha in Kitangale ranch; phase 2 would take a further 30,000 ha in 4 other ranches, while phase 3 would add another 24,000 ha.

Nature Kenya, EAWLS, and partner organisations were against the project on the basis that a land use plan of Tana Delta was non-existent; recent research suggests that under dry conditions Jatropha will not produce sufficient seeds or oil to make plantations economically viable and advise against Jatropha plantations, except as fences/hedges; wildlife corridors indicated in the EIA are insufficient; and some of the ranches hold wetlands critical for migratory birds from outside Africa On 6 May 2011, NEMA granted the developer a licence for the 1st phase of 10,000ha as pilot for 2 years to enable NEMA to make a final decision on the other phases.

The Compliance Director who approved the project was later suspended as he had irregularly granted the licence in spite of mounting scientific evidence about jatropha not being viable. Environmentalists wondered how a 10,000 ha project could be considered a pilot.

In response, NK and EAWLS filed a petition on 20th July at the National Environment Tribunal challenging the issuance of the licence. They later pulled out to enable the Minister of Environment to revoke the licence as they would not have proceeded with a case pending in court.

Threats of violence were reported, with NK staff in Tana and a local Kadhi Registrar threatened with death threats for questioning the project. Jatropha growing started end of 2011 through 2012. In June 2013, Bedford Biofuels pulled out of its Jatropha biofuel plantation project giving reasons that the political and economic situation was not good for business and closed down operations in Kenya.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Bedford Biofuels Jatropha, Tana Delta, Kenya
State or province:Coast Province
Location of conflict:Tana Delta 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
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities:Ethanol
Carbon offsets

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Bedford Biofuels (Tana Delta) Limited, has negotiated sub-leases from six ranches to grow Jatropha, investing around USD 68,730,625. NEMA has approved the first phase in Kintangale Ranch, which plans to cultivate Jatropha on 10,000 ha at a total budget of USD 12,355,000. The project involves the following stages: Initial clearing and ground modification and construction of associated infrastructure Growing Jatropha seedlings in a temporary nursery for manual planting; Management and operation of the plantation areas including harvesting; and Enhancements of the management of non-plantation areas in the ranch Bedford claims to commit USD $3,600,000 to the EMPOWER programme to fund community development projects, even though other previous projects have promised heaven but delivered little and at a cost on environment.

Project area:64000
Level of Investment:68730625
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:80-100,000
Start of the conflict:11/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Bedford Biofuels Limited from Kenya
Bedford Biofuels Inc from Canada
Relevant government actors:National Environment Management Authority; Kenya Wildlife Service; Kenya Forest Service; Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA); Commissioner of Lands; Water Resources Management Authority; Tana River County Council; Tana Delta District Develo, Ministries: Provincial administration (Tana Delta and Lamu Districts); Office of the Prime Minister; Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources; Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife; Ministry of Local Government; Ministry of Energy; Ministry of Tourism ;
International and Finance InstitutionsUK Aid from United Kingdom
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN )
Wetlands International (WI)
The World Bank (WB) from United States of America
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:East African Wild Life Society; East African Wild Life Society; Nature Kenya; Kenya Wetlands Forum; Kenya Forests Working Group; ARocha Kenya; Tana Delta Conservation Organization; Wema-Ngatana Farmers Cooperative Society; Lower Tana Delta Conservation Tr, LUSH Charity Pot, Darwin

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Land demarcation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project suspended. The Office of the Prime Minister, with funding from UK Aid, has set up a committee, with about 20 government representatives, to facilitate preparation of a strategic plan and strategic environmental assessment for the Delta. This would allow for development of sustainable livelihoods for the people while safeguarding the environment upon which the local economy depends.
Development of alternatives:1. Nature Kenya is working with local communities;pastoralists, farmers, fishermen and conservation groups in order to take action against the proposed developments in the Tana River Delta and to take forward positive proposals to enhance livelihoods.
2.Develop appropriate guidance on sustainable biofuel production before any commercial biofuel projects are approved.
3.Carry out a cost-benefit analysis to assess whether growing a biofuel crop carries an energy cost as well as environmental and social costs.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:NEMA granted the developer the licence even though scientific evidence pointed out to Jatropha plantations not being viable; and there were concerns that 10,000 ha size was too huge to be pilot. However, the company has now pulled out and the project is stopped.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislationsĀ - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Constitution of the Republic of Kenya, 2010; Forests Act, 2005; Forest Policy; Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act of 1976 ; Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA) of 1999; Environmental Policy;Water Act, 2002; Water Policy (National Policy on Water Resources Management); The Agriculture Act, Cap 318; The Local Government Act, Cap 265;

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges, Royal Society, 14th January 2008.

Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt, Joseph Fargione et al, February 2008.

LinksĀ to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

GMA News

Nature Kenya



Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network



Meta information

Contributor:Serah Munguti
Last update08/04/2014