Gareth Williams and Felicity Jones recently arrived back from The Gambia, where they have been working on an innovative Jatropha project with international charity Concern Universal.
The project aims to explore ways in which Jatropha can be used to enefit for rural communities, and to investigate the carbon offsetting potential of the plant.
The aim of the visit was to report on the Jatropha plots planted in 2008, and to develop a long-term plan for future activities.
Findings suggest that planting Jatropha could:
- Provide a much needed opportunity for subsistence farmers to diversify and earn a better income;
- Grow on marginal land that can no longer be used for food production;
- Improve soil structure, thus combating desertification and environmental degradation;
- Produce an oil that can be used locally as a biofuel, thus providing another way for people in the UK to offset unavoidable carbon emissions; and
- Sequester carbon.
The innovative pilot project has been co-ordinated by Concern Universal, whose head office is in Hereford. Fownhope Carbon Rationing Action Group (CRAG) have been very active in raising funds to support the project – most recently through their campaign to plant 350 trees in Fownhope.
A key outcome of the visit was the decision to broaden the impact of the Jatropha project through creating links with other agro-enterprise activities within Concern Universal. In particular, there seems to be strong potential to use Jatropha as live fencing in women’s gardens within the Western Division of The Gambia.
Plans will be finalised in the next few weeks. It is expected that there will be a strong emphasis on training sessions to sensitise selected Gambian farmers on the benefits of the plant.