Jatropha – oil plant of the future

Jatropha – oil plant of the future

Jatropha – oil plant of the future

by July 29, 2015 0 comments

Many are yet to know about the Jatropha plant that can be found right in our mist. As they say, Nigeria is a well-endowed nation and that is indisputable. However, not much has been concertedly done to ensure that the country maximises her potential. For all the available knowledge on the vast solid mineral, agricultural, energy resources including wind, water, sun, gas (which are said to supersede the oil potential) and solid mineral-based materials like coal and uranium; human resources available such as professionals, politicians, businessmen and servants, touts, crooks etc.; all labouring beneath their intellectual capacity both at home and overseas, the economy has remained largely dependent on a now waning resource, oil.


Presently, solid minerals have been proffered as the next best alternative to oil, but we need not stop there. A situation where we now stampede that subsector in neglect of other equally ripe areas plough Like the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Foreign Affairs recently said on a television chat, “Nigeria is a very beautiful damsel”. No wonder the Chinese and other foreign nationals are daily trooping into the economic crevices of this country. Our natural resources must be developed and utilised to improve the quality of lives of Nigerians.


There are some opinions which the entitled children can afford to adopt but opportunity seekers need to steer clear of, if they must progress on the ladder of financial freedom. One of them is the fad mentality. The entitled go for tested areas of business and with their financial might, use the sheer volume of their liquidity to drown competition. The emerging entrepreneurs’ ace is in the uniqueness of their niche; otherwise, they get crushed by competition and lose their lean capital. Young entrepreneurs with low capital need to focus on innovative areas where they can quietly amass capital in preparation for the inevitable upheaval that starts when the money bags discover the cache in that area of foray.


As introduced in a previous article in 2013, Jatropha Curcas is one of such areas. The cultivation and/or processing of Jatropha, bearer of the green oil well that will be relevant in meeting Nigeria’s future clean energy needs, is a venture area that remains largely unexplored years after its introduction. In the early 2000s, the world had its eyes on the diesel produced from the seeds of this plant, earmarking Africa as the strategic source because of her vast virgin lands and sunshine; resulting in the influx of European and American investors into Southern Africa to start large plantations.


However, their enthusiasm soon palled with the realisation that the plant requires a lot of inputs; especially water for optimum production. They did not bargain for that; the thought had been that it was a hardy plant that would grow and produce under any condition. At about the same time, the idea was forming in Nigeria. The sitting president at the time responded by setting up a committee on it. But then, with his exit, and the loss of interest by foreign nationals, Nigerian entrepreneurs also jettisoned a burgeoning idea.


The entitled west could afford to ignore the plant for the reasons they gave but, this writer and many others believe that this is one oil business that Nigeria must not ignore; not only for the job-creation potential and relevance to local needs for clean fuels to power our many electricity generating sets but also for accruals from carbon credits. We have many poultry, piggery and cattle holders who do not know what to do with the wastes generated from their farms – so we have more than enough in organic matter to condition the soil for Jatropha farms to thrive excellently. Also, our agricultural minerals like feldspar, limestone, phosphate, etc. would constitute rich sources of fertiliser for the crops. The western investors may prefer only tested areas but this is not a luxury that an economy in dire need of diversification can afford. If it does not earn us foreign exchange (and who says it will not?), it can mop up the unemployed, amongst other purposes.


Also, because it is not a food crop, I dare suggest that even human sewage fertigation could serve to meet both its irrigation and nutritional need since the plant has been identified as a water guzzler. I learnt that a large-scale cultivator and processing company is operating in Kwara State and need to be updated on the progress of that enterprise.


Considering that fossil oil took at least three decades to come to bloom and that indigenous participation is still low such that it makes little impact on the economic lives of common people, Jatropha cultivation could be one area where locals can readily participate.


A business statement on Chevron’s website notes, “Advanced biofuels can play an important role in our future energy mix if we can unlock the secrets to large-scale, cost-effective production.”


Some research institutes such as the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria, have made remarkable progress in the adaptation of simple technologies for the local production of biodiesel using Jatropha Curcas. The Forestry Research Institute, Ibadan, has also developed pilot plantations to demonstrate the feasibility of Jatropha cropping for willing entrepreneurs.



Credit: Jennifer Abraham (PUNCH)