Kenyan farmers, facing climate change and the threat of a global energy crisis, are turning towards a new economic opportunity. Nearly one thousand growers in the semi-arid eastern province are learning how to cultivate the jatropha cactus, a wild oil seed plant native to the area, and process the non-edible vegetable oil seeds into biofuel. Jatropha has been identified as one of the best raw materials for biofuel production.
The multi-purpose plant, which could grow on Kenya's vast areas of semi-arid land, also could meet a range of critical needs for resource-poor African farmers. The country has set a target of 200 hectares under Jatropha cultivation in the coming 20 years, the same as South Africa and India. Peter Moll, chairman of the Biodiesel Kenya project, explains that it will take more than 10 years to produce enough seeds for sustainable commercial biofuel production.
The country's National Biosafety Committee, a stakeholders?forum created by the Ministry of Energy, is crafting a policy framework for the development of biodiesel, as well as investigating methods of producing biofuels from corn, soybeans, and sugarcane.