Government revives Jatropha project as fuel crisis persists

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By Leopold Munhende

GOVERNMENT, desperate to end a recurrent fuel crisis, has revived its Jatropha fuel project abandoned during ex-President Robert Mugabe’s era.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa revealed this during a Post Cabinet media briefing Wednesday, where she emphasised on the need for alternative sources of fuel to ease the challenge.

“The proposed National Biofuels Policy will guide the biofuels sector during the period 2018 to 2030 in promoting the implementation of viable biofuels projects in the country.

“Its specific focus will be on ethanol production from sugar cane and biodiesel from jatropha, while exploring the possibility of other feedstocks, such as cassava and sweet sorghum for biodiesel production,” said Mutsvangwa.

“The policy, if implemented, will also greatly help the country to save foreign currency through import substitution.”

Government’s ambitious Jatropha farming initiative was first introduced as an alternative source of fuel in 2012 but failed to yield any positive results as it could not attract any meaningful funding locally and abroad.

It went on to set up a processing plant at Mt. Hampden that has now been abandoned.

In 2016, the country was sitting on 130 tonnes of the Jatropha seed which is processed for bio-fuel according to Finealt Engineering, government’s Jatropha processing company.

The seed contains between 30% to 40% oil.

Tracts of land went to waste as Zimbabweans embarked on farming of the plant, widely emphasised as an alternative.

Energy Minister Fortune Chasi dispelled claims that government’s revival of the project was another ‘failed jatropha type project.’

“It is not a project, it is a policy document…now that policy document signals government’s intention to move in a very strong way towards bio-fuel.

“Even if we wanted to play games, I do not think this would be a time for it,” said Chasi.

“We need to move strategically to disengage ourselves from expensive imports.”

Zimbabwe is experiencing one of its worst fuel crises in years due to massive shortages of foreign currency and claimed cases of illegal fuel dealings.

Constant hikes in fuel prices, coupled with recurrent shortages have been a daily experience.

Transport fares have continued to rise and government has taken to subsidising state transporter, ZUPCO in a move meant to ease pressure on citizens’ pockets.