Achievements of the R&D Farm Madagascar
Agronomics and processing
- Aspects of Jatropha cultivation including cultivar selection, sowing and planting, cultivation model (intercropping), fertilisation, irrigation, plant protection, pruning, and harvest were illuminated and potentials for generation of maximum yields and sustainable cultivation identified. Crucial points are clearly the selection of adapted cultivars, sustainable fertilisation practices, and a proper pruning strategy, as well as irrigation because the region is characterised by low rainfalls and poor soil quality.
- The processing chain for production of Jatropha oil was optimised to achieve high efficiency while maintaining high product quality. Fruit and seed drying options were tested and different machines for fruit dehusking, oil extraction and processing of byproducts developed.
- Jatropha oil was successfully tested as substitute for fossil diesel in tractors and an electrical power generator on the farm as well as in a plant oil cooking stove to substitute wood or charcoal that are used for cooking by the local households.
- Options for production of valuable byproducts were developed, such as fuel pellets, biogas from plant residues, and honey, amongst others.
- The myth "Jatropha can grow under very marginal conditions", i.e. poor soils and low rainfall, was confirmed.
- The myth "Jatropha cultivation is profitable even under marginal growing conditions" such as those mentioned above was not confirmed: The farm site was clearly too marginal to generate sufficient seed yields for feasible Jatropha cultivation.
Economics of the farm
- All investments needed for establishment of a large-scale Jatropha farm and long-term run were identified and strategies developed to reduce initial investments.
- Possibilities for best resource allocation were found to maximise profit margins.
- Possibilities for improvement of the cost structure and production efficiency were found.
- A location specific “business network” that includes local authorities, business partners and traders was established and strategies for maintenance and expansion developed. Good relationships to politicians and local authorities can be very helpful for successful long-term run.
- Sales opportunities were identified and adapted products that fulfill the quality requirements were delivered successfully. However, the difficult location-specific situation of product demands and low-price policy of customers was a severe challenge for the feasibility of the farm.
- Challenges in personnel management were identified and overcome.
- The impacts of a large farm located in a rural area with a high unemployment rate were evaluated. A strong symbiosis between the farm and the local population was identified in which the farm provides income and the people provide manpower and services, such as construction and maintenance of farm facilities, reparation of machines, transportation of goods, and similar.
- Generating labour and income in such areas lead to a tremendous improvement of the socio-economic situation of the local population: With the income from the farm, the workers and service providers increased their purchasing power and improved their situation in terms of health, nutrition, education, housing, transportation, and social life. Furthermore, these beneficial effects spread to the entire villages where the workers live in by higher trading activities that were induced by higher demands for any products and services offered on the local markets. Thus, the presence of the farm provides a complete win-win situation both for the local population and the farm owners.
- Jatropha was successfully established on highly degraded land. Not only plant survival was secured, but also generation of seed yields was achieved.
- Before farm establishment, the soil was prone to erosion caused by water run-off during the rainy season and by strong winds in the dry season. The natural vegetation was grass savannah that was very poor in biodiversity and had no ability to prevent soil erosion. Jatropha as a perennial plant coveres the soil during both, rainy and dry season. The widely spread superficial root system of Jatropha forms the basis of its high capability to prevent soil erosion.
- In long-term, the soil fertility was improved due to nutrient inputs by fertilisation, soil decompaction by cultivation practices as well as root growth, and by incorporation of organic matter in the form of plant residues.