Jatropha: A Promising Rural Bioenergy Crop for Ghana

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has recently released a report examining the potential for jatropha as a sustainable biodiesel crop. The report, “Jatropha: A Smallholder Bioenergy Crop, the Potential for Pro-Poor Development” has been in development since April 2008 and hails jatropha as a promising biodiesel crop particularly for rural farmers.

The report states, “As developing countries face increasing local demand for energy in rural areas, they also must deal with both economic and environmental pressure on agricultural lands in general. The possibility of growing energy crops such as Jatropha curcas L. has the potential to enable some smallholder farmers, producers and processors to cope with these pressures.”

It also states “Jatropha is an underutilized, oil-bearing crop. It produces a seed that can be processed into non-polluting biodiesel that, if well exploited, can provide opportunities for good returns and rural development.”

Although at present most of the jatropha currently grown remains toxic, the report said that it could eventually, “evolve into a high yielding crop and may well be productive on degraded and saline soils in low rainfall areas,” adding, “Its by-products may possibly be valuable as fertilizer, livestock feed, or as a biogas feedstock, its oil can have other markets such as for soap, pesticides and medicines, and jatropha can help reverse land degradation.”

Last week, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), acting in partnership with the Energy Technology Research Group of the Southampton University, United Kingdom (UK), has commenced research into the use of modern technologies to develop biofuel in Ghana.

The Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms. Sherry Ayittey, said the initiative is to help promote energy diversification and security in Sub-Saharan Africa and to reduce dependence on crude oil to enable the Region to conserve foreign exchange earnings.

Ghanaian company, Gold Star Farms, claims it has obtained jatropha-growing commitments from farmers holding 5 million acres, and will commence biodiesel production this year in the eastern region of the country.