Yes! Botswana has many plants and crops that can produce oil, bio-diesel and ethanol to drive our vehicles.
So imagine how surprised I was when, the other day ÔÇô actually it’s about a year ago ÔÇô someone announced that they were going to start growing olives in Botswana and there was so much excitement because Botswana ‘was going to grow its own oil at last!’.
Several personages appeared on television gushing about this marvelous new development and how it was going to establish Batswana as oil growing people, at last!
What surprised me was that our own indigenous plants and crops that can produce vast amounts of oil have not received any attention at all otherwise many more of us would be millionaires by now.
The truth is there are billions of liters of oil sitting out there in our forests, velds and fields. Oil that can be used for cooking, in pharmaceutical, cosmetics and chemical industries or be made into fuel for our vehicles.
Southern Africa is currently experiencing a serious shortage of that precious thick liquid: cooking oil. That has pushed up the prices of the available oil to unprecedented levels. Between September and December 2007, the price of cooking oil jumped by more than a hundred percent.
In Zimbabwe, production of cooking oil has ceased altogether so Zimbabwean shoppers from time to time clean out all the shops in Francistown and I believe this has contributed in making the commodity expensive all over southern Africa with South Africa being the only producer.
Yet cooking oil is not that involving to produce. The small Motswana farmer with a small field could produce liters and liters of the stuff but not from groundnuts or sunflowers because these crops require quite a bit of work. There are easier alternative ways of producing good quality cooking oil from other sources.
Makgomane is a good example.
Yes the very makgomane which our farmers don’t care very much about and are regarded as the poor man’s pumpkin by some, are a very rich source of cooking oil.
By winter time, the makgomane that are left in our fields are dry and that is when they are ready for oil extraction. The procedure is simple even though it is time consuming but they do produce volumes and volumes of oil if properly processed. The procedure can very easily be demonstrated. But then, our farmers don’t grow them on a dedicated basis. They usually throw a few seeds here and there as they are planting maize and sorghum. Why not grow hectares and hectares of these pumpkins then produce cooking oil on a commercial basis? This is something that farmers can start to do this year.
By this time next year we could be having our very own cheap Botswana produced makgomane cooking oil on the shelves.
In countries like Brazil, bio-diesel is being processed from oil extracted from jatropha and castor oil seeds. It should be easy to obtain oil from makgomane because they are annual crops and we don’t need additional infrastructure to grow them. Our fields are ready and we can start now. All we need really is our determination and by this time next year we could be running around in cars powered by makgomane. The technology is already there, the machines to convert oil to bio-diesel can be ordered through the internet. The technology to extract oil from makgomane is our very own African traditional technology and anyone can do it in a few hours. All we need now are the makgomane.
It is very important for us, from time to time, to stop for a short period of unbiased introspection. Is there any really valid reason why any Motswana should be poor? Is there any real valid reason why any African goes to sleep with hunger? I don’t believe there is because our forests, velds and fields are teeming with diamonds.
I still have to tell you that your maize crop can do much more that give you maize; it can give you bags of soda. I still have to tell you about trees that produce soap.
And, oh yes, there is another source of cooking oil growing wild and free around Maun.
How about manufacturing animal feed with termites as an important input ÔÇô I mean those insects which are a nuisance on our roads after the October rains?
I must also tell you about Botswana’s own equivalent of coffee. This delicious beverage grows all over the country and it is there for the picking. Actually there are several varieties and you shall get to know them all because there is no valid reason why any Motswana should be wallowing in poverty. There is so much more for everyone. We do have diamonds everywhere.