Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Jatropha Research Project on course despite challenges

The five year co-research project between Botswana and Japan which is aimed at creating bio-energy production model based on the country’s own biological resources continues to take shape despite challenges that emanate from Botswana’s harsh climate conditions. The project, which started in April 2012, is monitored by Japanese volunteer experts who are in Botswana through the auspices of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The objective of the project is to establish technical protocols and knowledge for the production and utilization of Jatropha biodiesel and biomass in Botswana. It is aimed at transforming technical knowledge and experience to produce Jatropha biodiesel in Botswana on commercial basis and to reduce carbon emissions. Jatropha is a tree which bears seeds that contain oil which can be processed into biodiesel.

Speaking in an interview at JICA offices in Gaborone, Chief Advisor Dr Yudai Ishimoto said the project is progressing well albeit not as expeditiously as they would want and the reason for this is due to unfavorable climate conditions in Botswana, especially in the southern parts of the country. He said they expect to harvest fruits from 20 000 Jatropha trees that have been planted at a 2 hectare farm in Sebele, where upon they will be processed into biodiesel.

The Japanese experts are working hand in hand with researchers from the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources. Ishimoto said while Botswana has severe climate, the country has an abundance of wild plants that can withstand dryness and winter cold. It also has large numbers of Jatropha trees, whose seeds have abundant quantities of an oil considered to hold great promise as biofuel. Using biofuel is aiming for both environmental and economical achievements.

Project Coordinator Takafumi Konaka said by the end of the project they intend to have achieved five outputs which include Jatropha farming protocol suitable for Botswana climate, bases for developing high yield and stress-tolerant Jatropha varieties. They also want to make sure that characteristics of Jatropha oil products become clear and that technologies to utilize non-oil Jatropha biomass are developed. Finally they would want to evaluate the impact of Jatropha production and biomass use environmentally, socially and economically.

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