By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
An Italian bioenergy consultancy company, Agroils is cultivating 10,000 hectares of jatropha in Ghana for the production of biofuels.
According to a report by Reuters, sited by ghanabusinessnews.com, Agroils is also investing in the cultivation of jatropha in three other African countries - Morocco, Senegal and Cameroon, and Latin American country Brazil.
Agroils’ Business Development Manager, Giovanni Venturini Del Greco, who is also a co-founder was quoted in the report as saying at an energy conference Thursday May 7, 2009 that the company aims at producing 100,000 tonnes of biofuel from the jatropha plant in 2018 in these countries where it works with local farmers.
The company started the cultivation in 2008, the report said.
He said, “our goal is a 100,000 tonne output in 2018.”
He told the conference that the projects include a 200-hectare field in a desert in Morocco and 10,000 hectares in Ghana. He said if the projects were successful the crop would grow in these areas.
Agroils is one of the about 20 companies cultivating jatropha and other crops to produce biofuels in Ghana. There are companies from Brazil, Norway, Israel, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and India investing in the area in Ghana.
Jatropha has oil-rich seeds that can be used to produce biodiesel. While its supporters argue it can be grown on semi-arid land and so poses less of a threat to food output than other biofuel feedstocks such as grains and vegetable oils, its opponents argue that investors are taking away productive agriculture land from poor local farmers for the purpose.
As the debate rages on between investors and civil society organizations that see the growing number of investors as a threat to poor farmers, particularly in Ghana, the country has no policy on the cultivation of crops for biofuels – leaving the field further open for more intense debates.
The need for investments in alternative energy sources and growing more food are realities confronting the world, especially in the face of the current energy and food crises, coupled with the global economic downturn. But the debate would continue as regards best practices and lawful acquisitions of and use of land for biofuel crops as against food crops.