The contribution of Jatropha curcas production in South Africa to biofuel production
Dr Lourens du Plessis (15 August 2007)
Jatropha curcas is a perennial plant that produces seed for a period up to 50 years. It is a shrub or small tree, a member of the Euphorbiaceae species and could grow to a height of up to 6m. It is considered one of the medicinal plants of Southern Africa (1). According to information supplied by Kirstenbosch, the plant naturally grows in Africa, between 15 degrees north and 15 degrees south (high rainfall), as well as a part of South Africa with lower rainfall, where the lowest temperature remains higher than 2°C. The coastal temperatures of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape particularly conform to these requirements (2). Reference (3) provides an overview of Jatropha production in Africa and comments on its possible utilisation, as considered in 2003. Jatropha utilisation in India, particularly on marginal land, is explained in detail on the internet, (see references) promoting projects for job creation and alleviation of poverty. Locally, massive attempts have been made to influence decision-makers to support Jatropha production and utilisation, e.g. the Sonnenberg Group, Bernd Schmidt (Bio-Diesel Africa), D1 Power and Emerald Oil. One Dutch Reformed Church Congregation (Garsfonteinpark) joined the efforts in planning projects. The valuable contribution of research in Nicaragua, in co-operation with the Karel-Franzens University in Austria (4), regarding Jatropha oil as the basis for biodiesel production, will be discussed in more detail below.
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