Cuba Ramps Up Jatropha Interest

CUBA – A biodiesel plant in Cuba is turning seeds from the so-called “bellyache bush” into a green energy source.Jatropha seeds are rich in oil but toxic for human consumption, explained Jose Sotolongo, director of the province’s Center for Applied Technology for Sustainable Development.

“It’s a major change to the widespread paradigm in global biofuel production,” Mr Sotolongo said, explaining the industry has so far mainly used edible vegetable oils, such as sunflower or soybean. The jatropha plant offers the additional advantage, he added, “that its cultivation is feasible in areas of low or no agricultural value.”

The small factory in Guantanamo province, on the eastern end of the island, is capable of producing over 100 tons of the fuel per year.

The factory was built with Cuban state funds, along with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Mr Sotolongo said about 130 acres of jatropha were planted at Guantanamo to supply the factory, adding that the first few liters of fuel have already been used successfully to power agricultural machinery in the area.

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