July 15, 2005 (ENS): The Biodiesel Agriculture
Association in the central African country of Malawi
has embarked on a nationwide campaign, urging farmers
to plant a crop that will produce biodiesel. The plants
of choice are drought tolerant, environmentally friendly,
do not need production inputs, and are harvested three
The biodiesel association in Malawi has been contracted
to implement a Jatropha curcas planting program by D1
Oils Africa (Pty) Limited, headquartered in the United
potentially lethal, the seeds of the Jatropha
plant, pictured above, contain a high percentage
of oil making them an ideal candidate for
Jatropha curcas is a drought resistant shrub that grows
up to 15 feet tall with spreading branches. Bark, fruit,
leaf and root contain hydrogen cyanide; the plant also
contains the toxics toxalbumin and curcin. The black
thin-shelled seeds of one variety can be fatal if even
four or five seeds are eaten.
But Jatropha seeds also contain a high percentage of
oil, used for candles, soap and biodiesel production.
“We are currently on a nationwide campaign sensitizing
rural communities through district commissioners, senior
chiefs, and right now we have already conducted meeting
with over 600 chiefs," said the Biodiesel Agriculture
Association Director of Operations Osman Ibrahim in
an exclusive interview with ENS in the commercial industrial
hub of Kanengo in Lilongwe.
Ibrahim said, "The program has secured substantial
land rights through contract farming amounting to 13,000
hectares to plant Jatropha.”
Ibrahim is a former Emergency Operations Coordinator
for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique where
he initiated the food for work program. He intends to
lobby WFP to establish a food for work program in Malawi.
The Association is currently urging local and international
nongovernmental organizations, institutions dealing
with communities, clubs, cooperatives involved in development
work, micro-finance institutions and agro-business partners
to introduce the Jatropha planting program to their
members and beneficiaries.
“The farmers are being provided with seeds and
seedlings including incentives to plant Jatropha,"
says Ibrahim. "For every tree planted, the association
rewards the planter with one Malawi kwacha, just as
is the case after the seeds given to them free have
germinated.” The kwacha is Malawi's the basic
unit of money.
“We are urging farmers to plant 2,500 trees per
hectare," says Ibrahim. "This is part of community
empowerment at its best. The association does not buy
land from the people, neither does it lease it. Both
the trees and the land belong to the people. There are
no strings attached to this initiative."
Ibrahim advises communities not to destroy existing
trees or forests but to identify idle land and plant
The Biodiesel Agriculture Association views Jatropha
is an alternative cash crop. Each plant produces five
to 15 kilograms of seeds per harvest three times a years,
and when crushed and processed the seeds produce biodiesel.
Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced
from domestic renewable resources. It contains no petroleum,
but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel
for use in vehicles.
It is also used in compression ignition engines with
no major modifications. It is simple to use, biodegradable,
nontoxic and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.
The overall smog forming potential of biodiesel is 67
percent less than diesel fuel, the company states. Its
analysis of biodiesel emissions show decreased level
of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrate polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been identified as
potential cancer causing compounds.
The global market demand for biodiesel is strong as
concerns rise that petroleum production may peak soon.
Ibrahim says there is an estimated demand for diesel
of at least 10.5 billion liters by 2010 in the European
Union alone. Current current global production by 2010
is estimated at only three billion liters.
The demand for alternative fuel sources continues to
grow throughout Africa, the company says, and it intends
to meet this demand in Africa through regional development
and the production of biodiesel as an alternative fuel
D1 Oil Plc has adopted a policy of social and ethical
responsibility, and says it is committed to reducing
global reliance on nonrenewable sources of energy which
contribute to global warming through the emission of
The company says it is conducting its Jatropha agro-forestry
in a sustainable manner to ensure that the benefit of
producing vegetable oil for refining into biodiesel
does not come at the cost of destruction to the environment,
the misuse of water and other natural resources, or
loss of biodiversity.
In addition to biodiesel, Jatropha seeds also yield
glycerin, which is used as a body lotion. The final
product is a cake that can be used as fertilizer.
A member of the spurge family, the plant is also called
the physic nut, Barbados nut, purging nut, pignon d'inde,
and kuikui pake.
Used in traditional medicine against a long list of
ailments including burns, cough, stomachache, gonorrhea
and syphilis, inflammation, jaundice, paralysis, pneumonia,
rash, tumors, and ulcers, the Jatropha has latex that
contains an alkaloid, jatrophine, which shows anti-cancerous
properties. The extracts have been used in folk remedies
D1 has established a foundation "to engage isolated
rural communities in developing countries in the commercial
production of biodiesel feed stocks."
The foundation aims to strengthen local agricultural
employment, encourage rural self–sufficiency and
establish appropriate energy infrastructure. "Our
intention is that such project will in due course become
self supporting and functioning,” the company
Ibrahim says that next week the association will start
crushing the seeds it has collected from farmers, and
samples of the oils will be sent to South Africa for
"We expect to get official communication from
experts after the oils have been tested. Already some
analysts have told us the quality of our seed is good
in the region," added Ibrahim.
An economic commentator, who asked not to be named,
said that embarking on new discoveries on a large scale
like Jatropha planting would prevent the country from
draining its foreign reserves. That consideration is
especially important at this time when Malawi is experiencing
acute foreign currency shortages that make it difficult
to import raw materials and goods.
A land-locked country, Malawi has recently experienced
rising prices of crude oil on the world market, resulting
in soaring prices at the pump. The prices hikes cover
freight charges at sea, demurrage charges at landing
ports, and transportation costs including road levies.
If done on a large scale, the initiative will save motorists
from dipping deeper into their pockets.
Environmentalists have also hailed the move saying
that the main product of Jatropha biodiesel is environmentally
friendly, since it produces fewer emissions into the
“The whole world is embarking on renewable sustainable
energy resources," says environmentalist Dixie
Makwale. "This is really a timely initiative."
Questions or Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All