Zimbabwe intensifies efforts to develop alternative fuel

Oct 12, 2005 02:00 AM

The Zimbabwean government has intensified efforts to develop an alternative source of fuel and identified more than 31,000 hectares of land to grow jatropha curcas trees whose seed can be processed into bio-diesel.
With much seriousness and commitment, Zimbabwe would join Germany, Central American countries, Egypt, India and South Africa that are now enjoying the benefits of the jatropha utilisation and fuelling their vehicles.

The emerging technology would also see countries growing the jatropha tree, cutting down on costs of fuel and be able to process the oil for other industrial use that include soap making and lighting. Some conservation organisations in the country grow the jatropha plant in such areas as Mutoko and Binga for further research on the tree and for export.
Tree Africa Programme Advisor, Mr Jacob Jepsen said there has been major consultations by the Government on the cultivation and processing of the jatropha tree.

"The Government is interested in the plant and we are offering advice on its cultivation. So far 31,000 hectares of land have been identified in various areas where we hope to embark on the cultivation projects," Mr Jepsen said. He said some commercial farmers have also responded positively and with the adherence of farmers to the advice given to produce high quality seed, Zimbabwe would in three years time, see itself with an alternative source of diesel.
"The seed does not require complex processing machinery, so production can be done locally. We have done a little bit of exports in India where the seed is on demand though the country grows it in vast pieces of land since 1992."

He said other countries like Egypt had set aside 500 000 hectares of land for the production of jatropha. Environment and Tourism Secretary, Mrs Margaret Sangarwe said Government was serious about the production of the jatropha tree and already a committee comprising members from her ministry, Energy and Power Development and Science and Technology Development has been set up to co-ordinate the production.
"We want to produce as many seed as we can and we are happy to say some farmers have already started growing their own trees," she said.

Mrs Sangarwe said science and technology colleges have also not been left out in the development and are carrying out various experiments to help enhance the quality of seed, which is critical.
The jatropha curcas is believed to have originated from Mexico and Central America and it is now being cultivated worldwide mainly for purposes of bio-diesel. It is highly drought resistant and thrives on well-drained soils and plants propagated by cuttings normally produce seed within one year of planting and growth is rapid.

Zambian conservationist Mr Reinhard Henning indicated that between 300 g and 9 kg can be harvested per tree every year while between 2-5 tons per hectare is harvested.
A litre of oil is extracted from a 5 kg pack of high quality seed.

Source: The Herald
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