JATROPHA IN NAMIBIA - AVAILABLE AT AGRA On Monday, 18 September 2006 the first container load of Jatropha seeds was officially opened by representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture for sample taking at the Agra premises in Windhoek. Seeds from the Jatropha plant are used to produce bio diesel and are already successfully cultivated elsewhere in the world. The cultivation of oil plants is becoming a global trend and the Jatropha plant is perceived as being ideal for cultivation in a subtropical environment with an annual rainfall in excess of 300mm per annum. However, the Jatropha plant has proven to withstand long periods of drought. Bio diesel is by now successfully produced and used in several countries in an attempt to make the world economies less dependent on fossil oils, whose supply is seen as limited. In a statement issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the processing of raw products is encouraged by the Namibian Government to ensure value addition and job creation. “Namibia has its share of challenging issues to deal with such as unemployment, urbanisation, environmental degradation and a rapid rise in population growth. The situation that rises the most concern is rural poverty and hence the government perceives the need to create income generating resources for sustainable development and a leading to a better economic future for Namibians as a priority,” officials of the Ministry of Agriculture said when they took samples of the Jatropha seed. Agra is the sole distributor/agent for the Jatropha seed. The seed is available for sale at Agra branches countrywide. All orders for seed and enquiries on Jatropha can be directed to Francois Wahl, Agra agronomist, at Cell. 081-124 8210. Seemingly well suited for the Namibian climate, the Jatropha plant is seen as an appropriate way for oil ‘production’, from the soil. Thriving under hot conditions (average temperature of between 20-28 degrees Centigrade) and being able to survive long periods of drought make it ideal for Namibia. The Jatropha plant also requires very little water for survival; hence Namibia’s desert and semi-desert climate seems to be suitable. One can expect a yield with as little as 300mm of rain. Being a shrub, it grows to between 3-10m in favourable conditions and can live to produce seeds for up to 50 years. While Jatropha is not browsed by livestock due to its toxicity, it is pollinated by insects, particular honey bees. Its leaves are large green to pale green. While irrigation is required during the first two years, this plant bears fruit after the first or second rainy season after transplanting the seedlings, and fruit are produced in winter when the shrub is leafless. Each plant can produce several crops during the year if soil moisture is good, growing a capsule of about 2.5-4cm long, splitting into 3 valves after the seeds mature and the fleshy exocarp dries. Seeds mature when the capsule changes from green to yellow which occurs 2-4 months after flowering. The seeds resemble the castor seed, it’s blackish thin shelled and oblong, containing approximately 37% oil. The fruit is harvested when it is yellow in colour, and transported in open bags to processing sites, whereby the fruits open when they are dried out and the seeds are separated from the fruit and cleaned. Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture were present when the sealed container was first opened and took samples of the Jatropha seeds for scientific testing. The objective of this testing is mainly to ensure compliance with health regulations, in other words that no diseases are present, as specified by the Namibian government and certified by the exporters, which confirms Namibian phyto sanitary certification. In addition, germination tests will be done to confirm the specified germination rate.
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