To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

February 14, 2011

Norwegian biofuel project in Ghana has potential, but may also cultivate trouble

by Reynard Loki

Three years ago, Patrick Barta in the Wall Street Journal called the jatropha "an ugly wild green shrub" and a "lowly forest plant." But he wasn't reporting on its lack of beauty or prestige within the world of botany. He was reporting on its potential as a future biodiesel star.

"This plant will save humanity, I tell you," said horticulturist for India's Ministry of Railways O.P. Singh, according to the article. Someday, "every house will have jatropha!"

The lowly jatropha -- a genus of some 175 succulent plants, shrubs and trees -- has been the focus of a Norwegian cultivation project on a massive tract of land in Ghana

"The ambitious plan is to eventually produce 20,000 barrels of oil per day, which would make [Scanfuel] Norway's second-largest oil producer, behind Statoil. Other international companies have permits to grow jatropha at a number of sites around Africa."

"Unlike other biodiesel crops, jatropha can be grown almost anywhere -- including deserts, trash dumps, and rock piles," says Barta. "It doesn't need much water or fertilizer, and it isn't edible. That means environmentalists and policy makers don't have to worry about whether jatropha diverts resources away from crops that could be used to feed people."

"In Ghana, where increasing amounts of jatropha are grown to produce biofuel for the European market, the foreign investors' lack of familiarity with local customs and systems of land rights have stoked tensions with the indigenous population," writes Rudolf ten Hoedt of the European Energy Review. "Some Western producers have fallen into the trap of making deals with irresponsible chiefs. Others try to do things right, but are taken advantage of by corrupt authorities or NGOs...Investors in agricultural land in Ghana are increasingly coming under fire. They're accused of exploitation and of driving local farmers out and are viewed by some as a risk to food security."

The name jatropha comes from the Greek words iatros (meaning "physician") and trophe(meaning "nutrition"). That makes sense, considering that this humble plant could one day help heal the Earth's environment from the damage caused by centuries of anthropogenic carbon emissions -- while feeding mankind's energy needs.

Scanfuel should consider the jatropha's "physician" roots and follow the Hippocratic oath's primary rule: "First, do no harm."

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP