In order to reduce the annual
$1 billion cost of importing petroleum the Ethiopian government several years
ago began sowing an inedible plant called Jatropha Curcas on plantations
in Benishangul, Wolayta, Wollo and Tigrai and some eastern regions of Ethiopia
to produce bio-diesel for domestic use.
Regional forestry and agro forestry
team leader Tsega ab Teka told VOA, “the plant was introduced in Tigrai and in
2006 more than 1.6 million seedlings were planted in 13 woredas and 80 percent
of the seedlings have survived. Moreover, 10 million Jatropha Curcas seedlings are being planted in
eight woredas of Tigrai in this Ethiopian summer.”
The government effort follows
similar projects in 21 countries including China, India and Zimbabwe. Jatropha Curcas is an inedible plant
with an oil content of 37 percent.
The plant is highly
drought-resistant and a fast-growing plant that produces the oil-bearing seeds
each year for 40 years. It grows in
drier regions of the tropics with annual rainfall of 300-1000 mm and
temperatures of 20-28 degrees
centigrade. It is a highly adaptable
species and grows in soils with low nutrient content. The plant produces seeds within its first two years and in some
environments can produce two harvests per year, giving off 8 tons per hectare
per year. One ton of Jatropha seed can
yield 600 liters of bio-diesel.
Recent research indicates
that, although vegetable oil can be produced from an estimated 100 plant
species, Jatropha Curcas has become the favorite for producing bio-fuel.
“It is a multipurpose plant which can be used mainly to produce
bio-diesel. The by-product is used to
make a wide range of products including high-quality paper, soap, cosmetics,
toothpaste, and the waste by-product of the bio-diesel can be used as a rich
organic fertilizer,” said Tsega ab.