The Jatropha Curcas tree has such amazing potential that has barely been tapped. It is like a treasure waiting to be discovered and shared. Slowly, but surely it is gaining recognition. If you take time to look, you will discover that the tree itself is more commonplace than one would think. People in developing countries pass it all the time and don’t even realize what a treasure they have. It is often used as fences in agriculture because animals will not graze it.
SHAPE has taken advantage of this valuable tree by harvesting the fruit that are developing on these “living fences.” SHAPE also is growing Jatropha on the Jatropha Test Plantation. Read more about it here - http://www.shapeinternational.org/2013/08/03/jatropha-test-plantation-in-burundi-africa/
Jatropha oil has many uses. Every part of the plant has useful properties, but Jatropha is mainly getting attention for its use as a biofuel feedstock that burns clean and efficiently. The seeds can produce up to 40% oil content depending upon the growing conditions A mature tree (5 years old) is capable of producing 1 – 2 gallons (3.5 – 7 liters) of oil. A tree can produce oil in its second year and will reach its peak oil production at around 6 years. Trees will continue to produce oil for 40 – 50 years. The seeds can also be used as insecticide and the oil makes a good bar of soap.
The fruits must be harvested, dried, and then the seeds can be extracted from the dried fruit and decorticated. Decorticating involves removes the hard outer shell of the seed, making it easier to press into oil.
The photo above is a Jatropha fruit sheller that we made from spare bicycle parts. It dramatically decreases the time to process Jatropha.
The picture to the left shows the press cake which is a by-product from the oil extraction process. It makes a great organic fertilizer. The photo to the right shows a Protos stove which burns Jatropha oil. We have used this stove to heat up water for cooking. The Jatropha tree has many uses and there is still much to learn about it.