Biofuel feedstock production has been identified as a possible avenue to boost rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the extensive promotion of biofuel crops such as jatropha and sugarcane, there are no cohesive and robust studies exploring how different types of involvement in their production affects rural income generation. This paper assesses the livelihood outcomes of different types of engagement in biofuel crop production in southern Africa using a consistent protocol between multiple study sites. In particular we use Propensity Score Matching to assess impacts on household income and expenditures across three comparative bases (i.e. total, per capita, per adult equivalent). We focus on four study sites representing the main biofuel feedstocks (sugarcane, jatropha), modes of production (small-scale, large-scale) and production practices (irrigated, rainfed) that have been promoted in southern Africa, vis-à-vis the institutional arrangements of feedstock production in each site. Households engaged in biofuel feedstock production tend to have higher incomes compared to households not engaged in such activities, particularly in sugarcane areas. However, when comparing livelihood outcomes across different production modes and practices, the picture is more mixed. In this case livelihood outcomes seem to depend on the institutional arrangements in the different sites, especially in smallholder settings. Overall, the results suggest that livelihood outcomes vary between crops, types of involvement, modes of production and institutional arrangements. Such variations must be considered carefully when designing and promoting the production biofuel feedstocks or similar cash crops, as rural development strategies in the region.