Monday, 6 October 2008
George R. Brown Convention Center, Exhibit Hall E
is a woody perennial shrub indigenous to Central America and Mexico. Prior to the heightened demand for biofuels, the primary use for this species was that of a "living fence". This paper details how a program was established to cultivate Jatropha as an oilseed and establish village based biodiesel plants in the tropical lowlands of the west coast of Guatemala to establish and alternative crop and establish a new business for lower income indigenous farmers. Through a USDA grant, funds were obtained to train farmers in cultivation of jatropha, to identify germplasm suitable for cultivation, to establish field trials to optimize production, to purchase vegetable oil presses, biodiesel reactors and facilities to house the plants and to establish cooperatives to produce a valuable product from a previously unutilized natural resource. Guatemalan farmers initiated planting of seedlings and managment of jatropha in established fence lines. Harvest began in March. Crushing equipment and biodiesel reactors were put in place in June, 2008. Four plants established will have a capacity of approximately 500,000 liters annually as feedstock supplies develop, making an important souce of supplemental income for coop members.
The project began in December of 2007, but has made substantial progress due to the abundance of the species in the region, the interest in alternative cash crops among the rural villages in Guatemala and collabortion between U.S. Extension personnel from the Texas A&M System, faculty and staff from the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and collabortors in Guatemala and other universities.