In Egypt, people often have to line up for hours to fill their cars and trucks with diesel fuel – particularly during summer months when it comes at a premium.
Concerned to ease these shortages, as well as pollution and climate change, Egyptian agricultural engineer Wadad Khaireddine is pushing to grow a desert full of “Laxative Nut” trees. More commonly known as the Jatropha, this wonder tree has multiple benefits: it fights desertification, requires very little water, and – most importantly – can be used to provide biofuel.
Speaking with Al-Shorfa, Khaireddine said that the Jatropha tree is a wild plant native to South America that belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family.
The tree has yellow flowers that first turn into seeds and then a fruit that resembles olives. Seeds inside the fruit are comprised of up to 45 percent oil that can be used as biodiesel.
“Unfortunately, the plant’s oil is unsuitable for human consumption because it contains toxic substances,” Khaireddine told the paper.
She says unfortunately, but the fact that the oil is not fit for human consumption is a benefit since it ensures that hungry people are not being denied food because of fuel, which is a common complaint in the biofuel industry.
Also, while some crops are water intensive (and Egypt doesn’t have much H20 to share), the Jatropha tree is said to be a low maintenance species that requires very little water to thrive.
The wood is strong and can be used for building projects, and essential oils can be used to make candles, soap and glycerine.
“The tree can be planted twice a year, at the beginning of spring and autumn,” Khaireddine explained to Al-Shorfa in a recent interview.
Plus “… it can be planted densely in desert areas, with one tree per every two metres, and it does not require any sort of pesticide or organic and mineral fertilizers, especially if irrigated by treated wastewater.”
She adds that a forest of Jatropha trees could stave off desertification by acting as a wall that prevents wind from sweeping away the desert sands.
Through her land reclamation company Al-Wadad, Khaireddine has raised some money from private sources in order to develop a pilot project that will prove to potential investors and the Egyptian government that Jatropha is a viable solution for Egypt’s energy and pollution crisis.
It can also provide a host of jobs in a country that has at least a 13 percent unemployment rate (though we suspect those numbers are a lot higher.)
But she is still looking for land, which she hopes to acquire under the government’s land reclamation scheme.
Image via Wikipedia