The Jatropha Organisation of South Africa                         

                    Jatropha Regional Socio - Economic   

                     Development  Beyond 2015





Socio Economic Development and the need for Government Intervention

Jatropha projects 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 regions. 

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:

1. Harvesting Jatropha is labour intensive.

2. Venture Capitalists understandably would prefer to grow Jatropha in rich soil and water catchments where food crops can easily be grown.

3. Jatropha 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.

4.  In places like Thailand 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.

Government Intervention:

Government intervention may constitute the development of a Jatropha Infrastructure over a pre determined period with an exit strategy. Whatís most essential is:

  1. The development of a Jatropha Board, Authority or Department.
  2. The determination of a Jatropha Belt for the establishment of plantations and the development of a localised supportive industry.
  3. The establishment of Nurseries and R & D Facilities for the provision of Quality Plant Material.
  4. Initial assistance to farmers and out growers within this region namely with Education and Training, the Provision of Plant Material, initial Fertilisation and Irrigation. 
  5. 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 established.
  6.  Transport and Storage Facilities.
  7. A Chemical Extraction Plant that would service the entire Belt.
  8. Marketing - I donít envisage this a problem as there will never be a surplus of oil.
  9. Collaboration with the Agricultural Sector, The Department of Trade & Industry and the Oil Companies.
  10. 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 Northern 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. ďJatropha Curcas Lineus CL has been growing in South Africa since 1922 and has not spread at all from where it was initially planted (Duelco: 25 Degrees in Africa / Volume 1, Journal 1 - August 2006)

Location: 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 with Jatropha.

Before 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 manufacture biodiesel.

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 establishment of Jatropha, 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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  Today's Date: 01/10/2015 02:27

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