Social structures in the semi-arid region and the biodiesel market

This article provides an analysis of the processes favored by the incentives and investments derived from the National Program for the Production and Use of Biodiesel (PNPB) in the semi-arid region of northeastern Brazil. Due to the importance of castor bean crops in the region and to PNPB's wager on castor bean oil as an opportunity for family farmers to take part in the biodiesel market, the main goal of this study is to understand the structure and dynamics of the castor bean market, the changes that PNPB's incentives have brought about, and the possible obstacles to the processes consistent with the program's social goals. The analysis has shown that current actions have not been enough to alter the social structures linked to poverty and to poor farmers' dependence, and also that business dynamics mean significant uncertainties regarding the continuity of current processes.

Biodiesel; Semi-arid; Family farming; Castor beans; Economic sociology

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