Plantations: Although Jatropha
is currently considered as an alien species in South Africa,
Jatropha is not listed as a plant in our (a)
Category 1 plants, or declared weeds (b) Plant invaders of Category
2 or (c) Plant invaders of Category 3. We are yet to come
across any piece of legislation, statute, act, ordinance or
moratorium declaring Jatropha illegal or specifying why a permit
would be required to establish a plantation. Please
click here if you have any
information that could direct us to any act or ordinance outlining
the legal status of Jatropha in South Africa. We would be grateful
to hear from you and immediately amend the content of this page to
incorporate the appropriate status of Jatropha. Notwithstanding the
aforementioned, according to Bernd Schmidt of Biodieselafrica, there
are to his knowledge 200 farmers in Kwa-Zulu Natal already growing
The only decision
Iím aware of is that of the Biofuels Task Team (comprising 13
government departments) including the Department of Agriculture.
Their decision to exclude the use of Jatropha as a feedstock for
biodiesel production in South Africa was due to 'the need for
further research to test the usability in the country'. This however
does not constitute a law, act or ordinance as the level at which
this decision was made does not imply that it is illegal to plant a
Jatropha tree or establish a plantation.
Jatropha are not permitted crops from which biofuels may be
manufactured in South Africa.
main decision to
advance the use of Jatropha for the manufacture of biodiesel lies
with The Minister of Agriculture. There is however a stupendous
international demand for Jatropha Oil because of its superiority and
use for products such as chain saw oil, two stroke and Jet Fuel. We
receive daily enquiries from abroad for the supply of refined crude
have carried out their own research and come up with the same
conclusion about insufficient local evidence. The net effect of this
is that nobody seems to be able to make a decision or to formulate
policy or a Jatropha strategy in the interests of the country as a
whole. The current status of Jatropha in
is therefore in limbo while people in decentralized rural
communities lose out from a plant with the potential to raise them
out of abject poverty. These people know about Jatropha but are
unaware of the international demand sitting on their doorstep. We do
not expect them to be too happy when they find out that an
opportunity waiting has been denied.
it really disappointing that although our
Biofuels Strategy refers to support
for rural communities living on under utilised semi arid land, it
recommends Bioethanol from sugar cane and sugar beet and Biodiesel
from sunflower, canola
and soya beans. The entry level investment required for these crops
or enterprises is way beyond the reach of people who earn less than
R800 per month each and besides the climate in their semi arid
locations is not suitable. In essence a strategy well written with
good intentions doesnít apply to people who are supposed to be the
main beneficiaries, a typical catch 22 situation. If Jatropha were
included in our biofuel strategy, decentralized rural communities
would be able to start earning a living in the short term because Jatropha that's
currently growing very well in their areas could be exploited to
above pictures exemplify the type of land where rural folk are
compelled to make pathetic and futile attempts to plant food crops in
arid parched soil instead of planting Jatropha that would bring new
life to their soil and to the environment.
We are currently
assisting a Christian group in Somalia who are using Jatropha
to replenish thread bare land. They've started the plantation off by
using drip feeders to irrigate the Jatropha saplings. Once the
saplings have taken the long tap roots penetrate the soil and draw
water from deep below the ground to sustain the tree.
If the countries patrolling the pirated
coastline of Somalia spent the cost of sending only one patrol ship on Jatropha
land replenishment instead, it would bring food and
employment to the misery of these people thus curtailing piracy and
other negative aspects of poverty. The picture above demonstrates
that which can be achieved by intercropping Jatropha with
edible crops on land that was previously arid.
Myths regarding the invasive dispersal of Jatropha Seed.
Jatropha Seeds are not dispersed by conventional means such as;
Animal dispersal and
Wind Dispersal: Jatropha seeds are about the same size
and weight as coffee beans. Plants that use the wind to disperse
their seeds are usually very light or covered in feathery
materials that act like parachutes when caught in the wind. Some
Seeds look and act like helicopter rotors such that the wind can
carry them easily. There are also seeds that may spin and fly in
the wind. It is highly unlikely that a Jatropha seed can be
transported from one location to another by using wind dispersal
as the seeds are heavy and not aerodynamic.
Water dispersal: Plants that use water to disperse their
seeds usually grow near rivers or the sea. The seeds float
allowing them to be carried away from the mother plant by water.
Jatropha grows in semi arid locations where there is hardly any
water, few rivers or away from the sea. When Jatropha seeds are
soaked, they sink to the bottom when immersed in water. Water
dispersal is therefore not one of the most likely means of
Jatropha seed dispersal.
Animal dispersal: Plants using animals to disperse their
seed are fleshy and edible. The fruit is consumed and the seed
passed out or discarded at another location. Animals do not browse
Jatropha neither is it consumed by birds. Other seeds are sticky
or cling and attach themselves to passing animals only to be
dislodged at another location where they germinate thereby
spreading the plant around. This is not the case with Jatropha as
the seed is smooth and inedible meaning that animal dispersal can
be ruled out as a means of dispersal.
Mechanical or Self Dispersal: Plants that use mechanical means to disperse
their seeds split or shatter suddenly throwing their seeds away
from the mother plant. Jatropha seeds remain in their pods which
have to be pried open to remove the seed from the hulls. A
Jatropha plant does not disperse seed by mechanical means.
Jatropha has been
dispersed mainly by mankind and few seeds that have enjoyed ideal
conditions around the mother plant (gravity). The seeds require 24 to 26
degrees centigrade to germinate and are often attacked by mites if
they havenít germinated within four to ten days of propagation. They
mostly fall to the ground within their pods, become moist then rot
because the moisture retained by the hull compromises the seeds
Hereís a picture of
a 15 year old isolated Jatropha tree in the North West Province. If
the seed were invasive there would be numerous young plants growing
research exists and has been carried out in countries on similar
latitudes, parallels and climatic conditions as Southern Africa. We
have access to in depth studies that already substantiate that
Jatropha is neither invasive nor harmful to the environment.
are in excess of
200 different Jatropha species widely
distributed throughout the tropics.
Some of these may or may not be invasive but I assure you that
Jatropha Curcas L, which is the most popular species for use as a
biodiesel feedstock, is NOT invasive.
The initial way
forward for the Government could be to support Jatropha
plantations in the north of South Africa from say the 29th degree
south parallel up towards our most northern borders. (Thatís a line
drawn across South Africa from the bottom of South West Africa,
through Kimberley and Ladysmith through to the east coast of
The reason I
write about these myths is that whenever I speak to
people about Jatropha Farming Opportunities in South Africa they
often come up with the same concerns. This is understandable because
we are all aware of the South African love and concern for nature
and the environment.
On the other hand Europe, America, Asia and Latin America have all
embraced Jatropha having identified it as the number one biodiesel
Air New Zealand is already flying passenger
aircraft using a blend of Jatropha Jet Fuel
while we are deliberating the relative merits of
If the following
issues were of concern to the rest of the world I assure you they
wouldnít be investing millions of dollars in Jatropha plantations
worldwide. So letís explore some of these concerns:
The Water Misunderstanding:
There is concern about the amount of water the plant needs in case
of high water consumption. Thereís also talk around South Africa
that the plant will ďsuck up far more of the countryís precious
water than the indigenous vegetationĒ The fact of the matter is that
Jatropha requires significantly less water than most commercial
crops grown in South Africa. It is well known to thrive in semi-arid
regions. The plant is amazingly adaptive and can grow in poor soils
that are not suitable for food production. One has only to surf the
internet for pictures of Jatropha farms to see that wherever
Jatropha is grown it is dry, almost arid.
Notice the two pictures at the top
of this web page.
Its the same picture of an undeveloped waste land where in the next
picture you see the established location of the same Jatropha
plantation with edible crops growing in between. This demonstrates
how well the plant is suitable for the rehabilitation of waste lands
and establishment of food crops.
extensive Jatropha trials and I assure you that the plant doesnít
like or take up too much water. In wet soil it looses its leaves and
then dies of stem rot. Before that the roots become stunted then
stop growing because of little need to search for water. A
characteristic of the plant is its long tap root with lateral roots.
Without this thereís also the danger of being blown over. So concern
for water consumption should be dismissed because Jatropha prefers
very low rainfall conditions making it an ideal commercial crop for
most of Southern Africa where other commercial crops are unable to
survive without irrigation.
pictures are taken of a few of the many thousands of Jatropha trees
growing in and around the North West Province of South Africa. These trees are well established
and produce an abundance of seed throughout the year that fall to
the ground without spreading like a weed. If you notice the area surrounding
these well established trees, there's absolutely no
sign of invasiveness or spreading out of control or taking over the
Misunderstanding: My contention is that plums would be considered invasive if they had
no commercial value. Many of the vegetables we eat on a daily basis
are alien species so what's the big fuss about Jatropha. It makes no
sense to "red flag" only renewable technologies and to conveniently
ignore established agricultural practices and other bad industrial
In rural areas the natives cook under the
sit in the shade of the tree, reap the tree and use the seed for
fuel, medicine and fertilizer. They rake the leaves for compost and
generally use the plant as one of their means of sustenance. If
given the opportunity they would sell every last seed without giving
the plant even the slightest chance of becoming invasive.
has been around for generations and if invasiveness was the case
there would be Jatropha trees growing in everyoneís backyard.
Countries like Australia who have declared Jatropha noxious donít
actually need Jatropha for commercial and socio economic purposes.
They are rich enough and donít have people around who would be
remotely bothered about reaping it or using it as a constructive
means of livelihood. There are Jatropha trees currently growing around
Australia but thereís no sign of them getting or going out of
control. There is, however, a Jatropha lobby group in Australia and
their invasive or noxious idea may soon become something of the past
because of advanced degradation of land caused by climate change.
In countries where there are
massive commercial Jatropha plantations the plant has not posed any
threat to their environment.
Jatropha worldwide has reached in excess 1billion dollars per annum
while we in South Africa are still debating the same old issues.
Even Arab countries are buying Jatropha seed from us and starting to establish
meaning that we will soon be buying Jatropha oil from abroad unless
we embark on an ambitious program to catch up with the rest of the
Jatropha is toxic but so are 70% of the plants in your flower
garden. A simple solution is to wear gloves when handling the seed
and this is what nursery workers normally do. In order to be
poisoned by Jatropha, one would have to pry the hull open to release the seed and
then crush the seed to remove the seed coat to expose the contents
which are hardly palatable. It would therefore require some effort to infect
oneself with Jatropha toxicity. Animals on the other hand know
instinctively not to browse Jatropha whereas humans know better than to
eat Jatropha seeds.
Iím yet to find a documented case of someone dying of Cancer as a
result of exposure to Jatropha. This is absolute conjecture
promoted by Jatropha scaremongers who use controversial issues to
sell other products on the internet.
Abilities: This is well documented. Please read the articles Iíve
Knowledge Base and Reading Materials.
Investment in comparative biofuel plant sources wonít bring about
the level of decentralized employment as Jatropha can and neither
will they serve to alleviate poverty and food shortages while
contributing to climate change.