Socio Economic Development and the need for Government Intervention
tend to contribute to securing food supply by rehabilitating unused,
often degraded land. Along with this comes the potential to create
thousands of sustainable jobs in areas of South Africa where there
is little economic potential. The nature of the plant lends itself
to low entry barriers for participation by the disentitled. The
leaves fall off in winter and create a mulch that brings life to
dead soil. The shade that the trees afford make it possible for
grass and other crops to grow enabling impoverished rural communities to graze their
goats or other animals. Any income thatís derived is very meaningful
to people who live in remote decentralized areas.
A Jatropha project
can therefore bring about sustenance, dignity and self esteem to the impoverished lives
of rural communities and deter them from traveling to metropolitan areas to beg or
steal. - A form of border control. The Jatropha oil they produce is
used locally to fuel vehicles, diesel generators, lamps or cooking
stoves leading to decentralized regional socio economic development.
An added benefit is that the seeds donít putrefy or have to be
processed immediately as with fruit or vegetables. This makes
Jatropha ideally suitable for local out grower schemes in remote
Jatropha in these
areas may not be a suitable financial opportunity for Venture
Capitalist or Investors who wish to see early capitalisation on an
investment opportunity. My
reasons are that:
Jatropha is labour intensive.
Capitalists understandably would prefer to grow Jatropha in rich
soil and water catchments where food crops can easily be grown.
performs optimally if grown with standard farming practices in
appropriate soil and rainfall conditions. But because it can also
grow in almost arid areas, it stands to reason that the seed production
will not be as high thus leading to the type of return an money
seeker wouldnít appreciate. The end result will either be sheer
exploitation of the poor or abandonment of the project.
In places like
and the Philippines, rural farmers were encouraged to plant Jatropha
and then left disillusioned by broken promises. On the other hand
Jatropha is very successful in countries like India where
Governments have stepped in for at least five years until
the decentralized rural communities started to produce.
intervention may constitute the development of a Jatropha
Infrastructure over a pre determined period with an exit strategy.
Whatís most essential is:
of a Jatropha Board, Authority or
of a Jatropha Belt for the establishment of plantations and the development of
a localised supportive
of Nurseries and R & D Facilities for the provision of Quality
assistance to farmers and out growers within this region namely
with Education and Training, the Provision of Plant Material, initial Fertilisation and
A seed Buy Back
Arrangement for at least four years so as to provide Farmers with
a secure means of income until their plantations are fully
Extraction Plant that would service the entire Belt.
Marketing - I donít envisage this a problem as there will never be a
surplus of oil.
with the Agricultural Sector, The Department of Trade & Industry and the Oil Companies.
An Exit Strategy.
The initial way
forward for the Government could be to support the development of 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
Natal) The other solution would be to assist farmers
with Jatropha Plantations in the
North West Province, Limpopo, Mpumalanga,
Northern Natal and the Northern Free State. Jatropha is and has been
growing in these
areas for more than fifty years.
CL has been growing in
South Africa since 1922 and has not spread at all from where it was
initially planted.Ē (Duelco:
25 Degrees in Africa
Volume 1, Journal 1 - August 2006)
The infrastructure surrounding a Jatropha Plantation is very
important. Without taking proximity of infrastructure into
consideration the entire project becomes less cost effective mainly
due to the cost of seed storage and transportation. The seeds need
to be crushed and other products such as biodiesel need to be
manufactured. If all these entities are dispersed at great distances
the entire endeavour becomes futile. So when it comes to location I
once again stress the importance of having a biodiesel plant or a
Jatropha farm in as closest proximity to each other. A Jatropha
Extraction Plant and a Jatropha Biodiesel Manufacturing Plant require
sufficient feedstock to be run efficiently and profitably.
The Moral Issue:
Weíve all read about the insanity of using food to feed cars
especially where the bread price becomes linked to the fuel price
and so on.
This not only applies to wheat and maize but all edible crops
including sunflower oil. We have to take this a step further when
planting Jatropha because one could also argue that Jatropha is
being grown to make biodiesel instead of edible crops for food.
However, Jatropha thrives and is perfectly acceptable on land where food
crops have never been grown before. The other advantage is to
consider wider spacing in rural areas to enable the locals to
propagate food crops between the Jatropha plants within a
plantation. The Jatropha trees will form their basic income whereas
the agricultural crops, which often fail, will have to be
continually reaped and re-sown.
As and when the Jatropha trees establish themselves, intercropped
plants are able to be grown with relative ease, as seen in the
picture below. This exemplifies the transition of an arid region with poor soil conditions
into arable land where food crops are now cultivated in symbiosis
establishing biofuel crops or a Jatropha farm one has to seriously
take the moral issues into account. What may be acceptable today may
become repugnant tomorrow and an entire investment could be lost as
a result. And by this Iím referring to the use of edible crops to
There's also a
lobby group that's come up with absurd idea that we should produce
vast amounts of food crops such as wheat, the surplus to be used for
biofuels. Venture Capitalists and a hungry fuel market would dictate
that the market principles of supply and demand prevail. Produce
will be sold to the highest bidder and food prices will go up and up
without care or concern for the needy. If the Government stepped in,
the question is, who would want to invest in an industry that was
dependant on the purchase of raw materials based on oversupply.
When times get
hard and the price of food goes up the first to be blamed will be
those involved in the manufacture or the approval of the manufacture
of biodiesel from food.
By promoting the
the Government can play a meaningful role in mitigating poverty and
meeting the aspirations of the masses. An upside to this is
employment, less migration of the poor in search of sustenance,
safer suburbs and a major contribution to Climate Change.
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