Jatropha’s Relevance for MENA

Jatropha is a genus of nearly 175 species of shrubs, low-growing plants, and trees.  However, discussions of Jatropha as a biodiesel are actually means a particular species of the plant, Jatropha curcas. The plant is indigenous to parts of Central America, however it has spread to other tropical and subtropical regions in Africa and Asia.

Jatropha curcas is a perennial shrub that, on average, grows approximately three to five meters in height. It has smooth grey bark with large and pale green leaves. The plant produces flowers and fruits are produced in winter or throughout the year depending on temperature and soil moisture. The curcas fruit contains 37.5 percent shell and 62.5 percent seed.  Jatropha curcas can be grown from either seed or cutting.

By virtue of being a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, Jatropha has a high adaptability for thriving under a wide range of physiographic and climatic conditions. It is found to grow in all most all parts of the country up to an elevation 3000 feet. Jatropha is suitable for all soils including degraded and barren lands, and is a perennial occupying limited space and highly suitable for intercropping.

Extensive research has shown that Jatropha requires low water and fertilizer for cultivation, is not grazed by cattle or sheep, is pest resistant, is easily propagated, has a low gestation period, and has a high seed yield and oil content, and produces high protein manure. Sewage effluents provide a good source of water and nutrients for cultivating Jatropha, though there are some risk of salinization in arid regions.

Pongamia pinnata or Karanj is another promising non-edible oil seed plant that can be utilized for oil extraction for biofuels. The plant is a native of India and grows in dry places far in the interior and up to an elevation of 1000 meters. Pongamia plantation is not much known as like Jatropha, but the cost effectiveness of this plant makes it more preferred than other feedstock. Pongamia requires about four to five times lesser inputs and giver two to three times more yield than Jatropha which makes it quite suitable for small farmers. However, Pongamia seeds have about 5-10 percent less oil content than Jatropha and the plant requires longer period to grow as the gestation period is about 6-8 years for Pongamia against 3-5 years in Jatropha

To conclude, Jatropha can be successfully grown in arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for biodiesel production. These energy crops are highly useful in preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand-dunes. The production of sewage-irrigated energy crops has good potential to secure additional water treatment and thus reduce adverse environmental impacts of sewage disposal. Countries in the Middle East, like Eqypt, Libya, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are well-suited to the growth of Jatropha plantations. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries, especially Egypt,  and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and regularly consulted on environmental projects by top firms in the region and beyond. Salman is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. He has participated in numerous conferences as session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is a prolific professional cleantech writer and has authored numerous articles in reputed journals, magazines and newsletters. He holds Masters and Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering and can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com
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One Response to Jatropha’s Relevance for MENA

  1. Volker Soppelsa says:

    Many thanks for the interesting article. Jatropha c does have potential but it is important to view this holistically preferably from a systemic point of view. The cultivation must consider not just soil conditions and the benefit of saving fossil fuels but must also look at such considerations as land area required for culativation against energy output achieved, impacts of the use of fertilisers, energy efficiency of the machinery used for harvesting and the overall LCA. Most importantly consideration should be given to the fundamental need to consume any fuel rather than the type of fuel to satisfy that need.

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