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Jatropha vs Moringa as food vs fuel

“The oil from the Moringa tree is considered to be a more sustainable biodiesel feedstock than Jatropha oil by those who argue that sustainability is better served by feed stocks that can yield both food and fuel” (source: Bio-diesel Magazine).

As part of government efforts to cut carbon emissions industrial players and environmentalists discovered Jatropha, a bushy shrub, planted for its oil producing fruit and ability to survive in harsh conditions.

Previously heralded as a wonder plant, it grows in a number of climatic zones in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The wood and fruit of Jatropha can be used for numerous purposes including fuel. The seeds of Jatropha contains (. 50% by weight) viscous oil, which can be used for the manufacture of candles and soap, in the cosmetics industry, for cooking and lighting by itself or as a diesel/paraffin substitute or extender.

The uses of Jatropha have undeniable value, but more recently the crop was found less robust than first thought, due to the link with rising hunger and non-edible industrial biofuels. Jatropha supposedly grows on marginal land. In reality marginal land produces only marginal yields, so Jatropha is increasingly being grown on fertile agricultural land, competing directly with food crops for space.

In in recent report, Christine Pohl, the author of “Jatropha, money doesn’t grow on trees”, argues that the land Jatropha uses need to be used for food production, particularly in light of growing populations and global food insecurity.

Still the search for second generation biofuel continues and the recognition of the Moringa tree has reignited the hope for sustainable food and biofuel.

The tree Moringa oleifera has surfaced as a higher recovery and quality oil than other crops; it has no direct competition with food crops and can be used as a source of both biofuel and food. The Moringa tree is fast becoming the best sources of organic products from alternative fuel (biofuel), organic food products (both for human and animal consumption), cosmetics ingredients and is best for malnutrition control.

Moringa is a rapidly growing and drought resistant tree of which all parts are edible and can be used for oil, fibre, medicine and water purification. The tree grows in semi-arid tropical and sub-tropical areas and even wasteland without ample rainfall or additions of fertiliser. Most parts of the plant are used as a medicine which is why it is no surprise that many believe the greatest contribution of Moringa to health is its nutritional value.

Furthermore, Moringa is also identified as a potential solution to Vitamin A deficiency in poverty stricken countries such as Malawi and Rwanda.

With Moringa bridging the gap between food and fuel, finance and investment firms are picking Moringa as an opportunity to provide rewarding returns in the investment market.

“Both the global population growth and the demand for alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, has sparked a surge of interest in the soft-commodities market, highlighting the importance of investments such as our latest project, Moringa: “The Miracle Tree” in Mozambique, Insight Group PLC.

While Moringa is still unheard of to most of the western world and a relatively new player in the alternative fuel market, the global potential is vastly recognized. Moringa is projected to be Japan and Korea’s dominant source of biodiesel within the next fifty years.

source: Bio-diesel Magazine

by S. C.
04 february 2011, Food & Fun > Knowledge

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