FG Firms Up Measures to Improve Jatropha Cultivation for Bio-fuels

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Patrick Ugeh in Abuja

As part of the plan to resort to the use of bio-fuels to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel, the federal government and stakeholders have outlined a number of steps to be taken as quickly as possible.

One of them is that to make Jatropha cultivation economical, an integrated approach, which examines the entire value chain from the standpoint of access to land, seedling, science of cultivation, water, technology for processing Jatropha, by–products and market offtake will be required.

Another is to ensure that production of the crop must lead to processing to avoid a situation of export of raw materials as cheap products and import of expensive processed products.

These were contained in a communiqué from the two-day Environment Dialogue on the Diversification of the Nigerian Economy: The Role of Jathropha” held in Abuja and made available to newsmen at the weekend. It was organized by the Ministry of Environment.

The document said: “Government will need to incentivise the process by standing in as the off–taker of last resort guaranteeing as a means of encouraging community participation.

“Price assurance will encourage farmers. We must learn from the cassava
experience where policy to encourage cultivation was not matched to viable
strategy leading to loss to the farmer and disillusionment with government policy and strategy.

“Coordination is key; working in silos will not advance the agenda just as one size will not fit all. Our role will be to facilitate awareness of options and possible business model scenarios.”

According to the communiqué, a political economy scoping of technology to map and understand models of Jatropha farming; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis is necessary.

It added: “We need adequate focus and funding of research and access to clean cook energy that can utilise bio-mass and reduce carbon impact on the environment, health and wellbeing of women and communities.

“Funding for research into seed development suitable to our topography, including a database of different species suited to various parts of the country is an important strategy.

“The community has to be at the heart of the Jatropha revolution.
This community must be sensitised and disaggregated from an inclusive perspective, which recognises the role of women, youth in school, youth out of school, persons with disabilities and men working together and connected with opportunity in a timely manner.”

The stakeholders agreed that ideas developed around the Jatropha value chain must anticipate sustainability and the localisation of ideas, with the adaptation of models suited to our climes and indigenous knowledge.

They further said: “Communities along the Great Green Wall (GGW) can serve as our infrastructure entry point with the GGW as a special purpose vehicle to popularise the Jatropha value chain.

“Market and market development through the cultivation of a cottage industry
system from the cultivation, production to the processing end is important.

“Quality assurance will be crucial as one of the first steps to guaranteeing that
market exists.

“Implementation and sustainability need not be tied to any one agency but should engender leadership and facilitate convenings that are sustainable, for example linking BIONAS, UNIDO with national entry points and communities.”

The stakeholders decided they must think innovatively and utilise land along the transportation hubs, dams and schools and erosion prone non competitive land.

They stressed the need to provide access to low interest single digit loans and inclusive financial incentives.

“The Federal Ministry of Environment should utilise its afforestation fund in budget 2017 to commence the resuscitation of the shelter belt plantation as a demonstration of political will and controlled experiment.

“We need to create an investment model that enables farmers to invest along the value chain and profit-share rather than remain as outgrowers only.

“The facilitation of partnerships between the local renewable energy research, marketing institutions, international donor agencies, finance institutions and development partners,” they stated.