What food crops are grown in Africa

How does Jatropha help in Malawi?

Detailed information about the JATROPHA

General information about jatropha

The jatropha belongs to the milkweed family and originally comes from tropical America (it grows wild between Mexico and Chile). It was carried off to all continents by seafarers after the discovery of America. The shrub is a typical pioneer plant and due to its special adaptations to wasteland locations it grows wild almost everywhere where it is tropical, warm and mostly sunny.

The bushes can reach heights of 4 to 7 meters. The plant can be propagated by sowing the seeds or - if there is sufficient moisture for growth - also with cuttings.

Propagation via seeds ensures the maintenance of the plant's genetic reservoir, since cuttings are genetically identical to the parent plant.

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In return, the cuttings have a clear development lead.


The inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers are followed by spherical fruits containing three black-brown seeds.
All parts of the shrub are poisonous. In the past, jatropha was occasionally used medicinally as a laxative, but this is rarely used today because more tolerable agents are available.

Economic significance and possibilities from and with Jatropha today

At first it was barren, barren land.
Then came the jatropha nut. The nuts produced plants in the barren soil. these grew into stately trees and bushes in a very short time.
These woods shed a lot of leaves, which make the soil more fertile.
Together with neem and moringa, they give the soil what it needs: fertility, what people need so that they can soon provide for themselves with food that grew on the former wasteland.

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Positive effects of growing jatropha in agriculture, especially for Malawi

Targeted cultivation can sustainably promote agriculture in several ways, e.g. directly by maintaining and expanding agricultural areas for the cultivation of

Food by converting fallow land into arable land.
►Jatropha grows on wasteland, so there is no competition to the cultivation of food crops, but on the contrary even promotes this by regenerating the soil, because ...
► ... the shrubs are perennial and their extensive roots prevent soil erosion by wind and water
►The residues of the oil pressing (press cake) can be used as fertilizer for fields
► Once grown, the first harvest is possible after approx. 3 years, for up to 40 years
►Jatropha survives dry seasons and periods of drought by shedding leaves without artificial water supply
► the plant will not be eaten by domestic animals or wild animals as it is poisonous.
►The shrub can therefore also be used as a hedge against game bites. This trait is well known in Africa and in some regions like the Lower Shire it is the main reason the plant is deliberately grown on a small scale.

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Uses of Jatropha products for the population in Malawi

►Fuel for Lamps and Hotplates
►Lubricating oil for engines
►The press residue can be used to produce biogas. However, we refrain from doing this for security reasons.
►The Press cake but is called Natural fertilizer for the Reclamation of the soil used.
►Another use would be the production of soap with a by-product in the case of esterification for diesel production. However, this variant is out of the question for us. Because the needs on site are primarily based on the basic needs of food and drink. People usually still move on their own. In addition, an esterification plant would be too expensive.
It should be noted that the technology required to extract oil is still too expensive and is out of the question for us.

Use of JATROPHA products for the economy and environmental protection of the country of Malawi

The soil is not leached when growing jatropha, on the contrary, usable area can be gained through recultivation of wasteland. The use of fertilizers and pesticides is not necessary.

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The Tengani project in Malawi and Jatropha

In the future, too, we will only attach a limited role to the cultivation of jatropha, so that other useful trees such as moringa and neem still find space in between. In addition, the need for fuel is largely limited to cooking areas and domestic lighting. The farmers harvest their nuts themselves and can process them in a communal press for their own use.

As Energy and pioneer plant is the jatropha for the landscape of Malawi for climatic reasons as well as by the Wasteland use ideal.

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