Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Jatropha – never heard of it!

It exists. It’s a major crop grown for its oil, and production is ramping up because it is highly suitable as a biofuel. Now I’ve heard of it. And so have you!

Jatropha has pretty flowers

I heard about it through ‘African Agriculture’ – a news site about, yep, agriculture in Africa. They reported yesterday on a $20million venture to grow jatropha in Tanzania.

Jatropha seeds

Here’s what Wikipedia says about jatropha.

The hardy jatropha is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds with up to 40 per cent oil content. When the seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be used in a standard diesel car, while the residue can also be processed into biomass to power electricity plants.

Jatropha - tree, leaf and flower

Here are some handy facts about jatropha (sorry, I like this kind of thing, feel free to skip to the end!)

- After the first five years, the typical annual yield of a jatropha tree is 3.5kg of beans.
- Jatropha trees are productive for up to 30-40 years.
- 2,200 trees can be planted per hectare (approx 1,000 per acre).
- 1 hectare should yield around 7 tonnes of seeds per year.
- The oil pressed from 4kg of seeds is needed to make 1 litre of biodiesel.
- 91%+ of the oil can be extracted with cold pressing.
- 1 hectare should yield around 2.2-2.7 tonnes of oil.
- Press cake (seedcake) is left after the oil is pressed from the seeds. This can be composted and used as a high grade nitrogen rich organic fertilizer (green manure). The remaining oil can be used to make skin friendly soap.

Isn't that cool?

Then I discovered that Diligent Tanzania Ltd, based in Arusha, are producers of jatropha oil and biodiesel for transportation fuel purposes and offer consultancy services for anyone who wants to grow or use jatropha. Their website indicates that Diligent is very socially responsible. They work with local jatropha growers to improve their farming practice and they guarantee a market for their product. They also arrange local processing of the seeds into oil, which keeps more jobs in the local area.

Diligent staff in Tanzania

The world is just jam-packed with bustling initiatives and ventures that are constantly changing the landscape we live in. Keep your antennae out, you'll see them everywhere.

I wonder whether any parents of St Jude’s kids are jatropha farmers? I wonder whether St Jude's diesel generators can run on biofuel?

I wonder. Do you?

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