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Low Cost Biofuel Grown Wild in Africa: a Source for Reducing Poverty


Experts say there are a number of ways in which agriculture can help developing countries overcome poverty. For example, crops can be used to produce energy. The World Agricultural Forum is promoting a particular type of vegetation grown in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia called jatropha, which decreases dependence on oil and helps meet the growing need for food and fuel. The president of the WAF, Ray Cesca, is responsible for fund-raising, strategy planning and personnel. From St. Louis, Missouri, he told Voice of America’s Cole Mallard that a mature jatropha looks like a pear. He said it is not edible by humans and animals but is used as a border for farmland to keep livestock out.

SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE

Cesca says to get fuel from a jatropha, the fruit is squeezed and the oil is slightly filtered: “You put it in your gas tank, turn your engine on and it can be used as an alternative energy source to run agricultural equipment.” He says it can also be used to provide light for households or as a fuel for any other kind of electrical needs on a farm and can be sold to generate income.

The WAF president says jatropha fuel is produced in “a…unique, low-cost process that can be replicated over and over again depending on the size of the community.”

JUST GETTING STARTED

Cesca says jatropha is not well known yet as a fuel source; it was discovered by a company in Britain that is cultivating it to see if a larger supply could meet future demand.

The WAF spokesperson says although commercial production of jatropha is not yet in full swing, there is no known disadvantage to growing and using it: “Where it has been used in trials they don’t see any environmental detriments that might come from it.” Cesca says the product runs fairly smoothly “with certain adjustments in the carburetor,” as is routinely required with other fuels, such as ethanol. As to possible harm to the environment, Cesca says, “It may come later, but as of the present time we don’t see anything that’s on the horizon.”

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