Nepali Times Asian Paints
Farming diesel

Nepal may not have the fossil fuel deposits to meet demand for diesel but some dependency on imports could be eased if serious initiatives were taken to produce our own bio-fuel. Crystal Bio Energy Nepal's jatropha farming is a step in this direction.

Jatropha curcas, locally known as sajiyon or ratanjot, or simply jatropha, is a plant the oil extracts of which have a chemical structure similar to that of mineral diesel. Many feel it is the perfect biodiesel crop, as its seeds have upto 40 per cent oil content. It can be grown in poor soils and does not demand careful nursing once planted. Jatropha farming has proved to be an alternative fuel solution in India, Cambodia and parts of Africa. Japan and New Zealand have even conducted successful flight tests using jatropha fuel.

Jatropha farming is being encouraged in Nepal as well. For the last three years, Crystal Bio Energy Nepal has been investing in jatropha. The company, in collaboration with local communities, has begun jatropha farming in 40 districts. It has been training farmers, too, and 70 million jatropha saplings are now growing on 10,000 hectares of land.

"Although the plants produce seeds from the first year on, we plan to let them grow for three years," says Ramesh Kumar Rai of Crystal Bio Energy. "Seed production will then be high enough to produce diesel on a bigger scale." The jatropha plants are now 18 months old, halfway to production.

A litre of pure diesel can be extracted from four kilos of jatropha seeds. After the first five years, the typical annual yield of a jatropha tree is 3.5 kg of seeds. Jatropha trees have a productive life of 30-40 years.

The diesel produced from jatropha can be used for all types of diesel engines. In Nepal, jatropha fuel is expected to be used for irrigation pumps, stoves and lamps in homes. "The by-products of the oil extraction process are also useful," adds Rai. "The glycerine produced can be used in soap production and the rest of the by-products can be used as organic fertilisers or made into briquettes for fuel."

Besides Crystal Bio Energy, the Alternative Energy Promotion Center has been supporting 10 other organisations for jatropha farming. It has also helped set up biodiesel plants in Ramnagar (Chitwan) and Jhumsa (Palpa).

"We are at the initial phase right now," says Rai. "There is a need to develop commercial farming of jatropha and make it a sustainable fuel source."

Waste not, DEWAN RAI

1. Roxy
Its true, jatropha is being grown all over the world now. Its the new "miracle" diesel plant. It is truly a remarkably useful plant.

However, this article fails to mention the atrocities being committed in the name of jatropha across the world. Let us not allow big companies to abuse land owned by poor farmers by growing fuel where food should be grown instead, like they are in India, and by cutting down delicate ecosystems and forests to grow jatropha, like they are in Brazil.

2. Prakash
It is good with visions and "new thinkers" but when you almost weekly can read in the papers that  people in remote districts of nepal suffer from food shortage, this is this ages madness, to use food for petrol. The forest still  being cut down buy farmers who needs new fields. Now we're not using the land for food but for diesel!!? This only makes the import market grow instead of local manufactured and local grown corps and food can be distributed and sold . If Nepal wants to go green, make sure the hicasts and FN employee start to use bikes and there feet for walking in Kathmandu. Then the city would become less poluted and the petrol would last longer.

3. Kale
Jatropa is not a food material. It can be grown in marginal lands.

Wind farming can be useful, as it can be built fast and components can be fabricated locally. ADB President has recently proposed this  as well. Why not go for it?
 Food items for marginal highlands can be introduced from the Andes like Quinoa, a rich food item or Nunas beans. Pecan can be grown for alleviating poverty in mountains regions. So also Kiwi, Cherry and improved variety of sweet potato.Air lifting rice and buying Vea Changra from Tibet every Year shows we are devoid of thinking,a nation of simple clerks.

4. Buddhi
It seems like good to hear that jatorpa oil try to replace the fossil fuel. It is quite nice to check draining of millions of rupees  from our country to import fossil fuels. In fact, the jatropa plants also needs good soils, enough fertilizers, irrigation water etc to produce more seeds. The marginal land couldnot suitable for obtaining optimum amount of jatropa seeds. It ultimately replaces the food producing lands and compete with the food crops which will creat another food crisis in Nepal. So that why not we go one step further research that we can produce oil/ethanol from the maize, millet like plants plants. One things that such ethanols is not derived from grains but from cellulose. For instance, if we use maize stem (cellulose) for ethanol production it will solve the food problems as well as the fuel shortage in Nepal. Thus, it is far better to think about long term solution than short one.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)