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March 12, 2008

Swazi king to launch jatropha biodiesel project

On March 14 His Majesty King Mswati III will officially open the Hluti Model Farm Jatropha project, marking the formal launch of government's endorsement of the biodiesel oil projects being undertaken by D1 Oils Swaziland.

D1 Oils Swaziland is a D1-BP Fuel Crops and Ning Group joint venture, which is a locally registered biodiesel feedstock company that is committed to developing the bio-fuels industry in Swaziland.

However, a lot of questions have been raised on the sustainability of Jatropha as an alternative energy source for the Swazi people. Fears of the toxity of the Jatropha plant on local soils, livestock and human beings have been raised by various pressure groups.

The big question has been, "Does Swaziland really need a jatropha project right now at the expense of land for food and if so, will it be successful?"

A case study relevant to Swaziland is that of Zimbabwe where the government has taken a deliberate move to promote the production of Jatropha as an alternative energy source.

The Zimbabwe government has set aside 40 000 hectares of land for jatropha production and to date 10 000 hectares have been planted. The Zimbabwe government has also set a target of at least 10 percent fuel import substitution by 2010.

With the local price of petrol having gone up by 70 cents at midnight, a sustainable alternative energy source is then worth considering. However, at the same time there is also need for a clear national policy on bio-fuels coupled by extensive research to expedite its quest of mitigating the fuel import bill.

It has become accepted in the world of economics that the major inflation driver in African economies is fuel. Any increase in the price of fuel has a domino effect on the price of basic goods and services, thereby creating inflationary pressures on the economy.

Swazi Observer

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