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27.07.2005 Regional News

GRATIS Foundation manufactures bio-fuel equipment for Shea Butter Women's Group.


Tema, July 27, GNA -- A Shea Butter Women's Group at Gbimsi, in the Northern Region has since 2001 cultivated a ten-acre jatropha plantation to extract bio-fuel from the jatropha plant as a substitute to energy to run their agro processing extraction machine to sustain their business. The women developed interest in the jatropha bio-fuel after the GRATIS Foundation (GF) manufactured a jatropha bio-fuel processing unit for them to extract the oil from the plant.

Mrs Sabina Anokye-Mensah, a Food Scientist and a Gender/Development Coordinator of the GF disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency in an interview on Wednesday on the economic importance of the jatropha plant. The Jatropha oil is a readily available and renewable fuel, which serves as a diesel oil substitute to power diesel engines running equipment in the shea butter extraction unit. According to her, the jatropha plant from which bio-fuel is extracted to run agro processing machines is widely used in many communities in the country for fencing.

As the plant is easily available and affordable, she stressed the need to cultivate jatropha plantation on a larger scale so that oil extracted from the plant would be used to run machines as a supplement to electric energy. She however, warned that oil from the plant, which has a lifespan of over 50 years, is poisonous and efforts are being made to conduct research into it. The Food Scientist described the process of extracting oil from the jatropha plant as environmentally friendly and apart from its usage to run agro processing machines the oil is also used for making soap as well as substitute for kerosene for lighting the local lantern (BOBO) in homes.

She said the bio-fuel is beneficial for small/medium scale food processing in income generating activities such as vegetable oil extraction, gari processing and pito brewing, among others, who use labour intensive traditional processing methods for their activities.

She said in the late 1990s, when GRATIS Foundation took up a UNIFEM sponsored project on Shea Butter Extraction for the women group at Gbimsi there was no electricity in the village so it became necessary to think of renewable energy and first tested the jatropha plant which proved fruitful.

The equipment was developed using simple technology, tested, proved useful and has since 2001 being operational at Gbimsi and used by the Shea Butter Women's Group. According to her, while Gratis manufactured the equipment and UNIFEM sponsored the Group on the project the Walewale District Assembly also provided the structures for them. Mrs Anokye-Mensah said the women embraced the technology, so a jatropha biofuel processing unit was established at Gbimsi, which provides a readily available and renewable fuel and serves as diesel oil substitute to power diesel engines to run equipment in a shea butter extraction unit.

For its economic viability, she urged Ghanaians, especially those in income generating activities at rural level to embrace the technology and use it to help save energy and promote their businesses to ensure economic growth.

"If we have used this simple technology and it has worked then it needs to be embraced by all on larger scale."