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Zimbabwe's Biodiesel Project on Verge of Collapse

Zimbabwe’s search for sustainable energy has hit a brick wall as a state-funded project launched in 2005 to address critical fuel shortages through the extraction of biodiesel from jatropha seeds, is now on the verge of collapse.

Government representatives, lawmakers and energy experts told VOA Monday, Zimbabwe has almost abandoned the project, now relegated to an experiment in the agriculture ministry’s technology department.

One of the jatropha processing plants set up five years ago in Mount Hampden near Harare by Zimbabwe and North Koreans, they say, is now a white elephant due to the non-availability of jatropha seeds.

The central bank disbursed about Z$3 billion (US$12 million) between 2005 and 2007 for the biodiesel project launched by President Robert Mugabe amid pomp and funfare.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Seiso Moyo said lack of funding is crippling the jatropha fuel project. Jatropha curcas is a drought tolerant shrub with oil rich seeds that make diodisiel and stockfeed.

Parliamentary agriculture committee member Moses Jiri said government should stop funding the project.

“Parliament needs to carry out an investigation into this project as we suspect that government funds were abused,” said Jiri.

Agronomist Thomas Nherera believes that farmers are not well-equipped to handle the jatropha plants for commercial purposes.