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April 23, 2009

Zimbabwe expands jatropha plantations to step up biodiesel output

by Chanel Pringle

Zimbabwe was aiming to produce biodiesel from jatropha to substitute about 10% of its imported fuels by 2017, which National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) biofuels programme manager Abisai Mushaka said would be about 100-million litres of biodiesel a year.

The company was targeting to eventually plant about 120 000 ha/y of jatropha plantations to produce the biodiesel.

Since December last year, Zimbabwean farmers had planted about 1,5-million jatropha plants a week. Noczim was hoping to double this to about three-million plants a week. This would equate to about 50 000 ha/y of plantations, which would allow Zimbabwe to reach its 10% target by 2015.

The plantations were mostly being planted in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country, mostly on a small-scale basis.

A 35-million litre a year biodiesel plant had been commissioned at the end of 2007 to produce the fuel.

However, Mushaka noted that some key elements were still needed to ensure the sustainability of the programme.

The company was hoping to eventually establish large central estates for the planting of crops, as well as a number of smaller processing plants.

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