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Ntabazinduna Jatropha Plantation: A project that never was

At the time the Jatropha plant was introduced to Ntabazinduna villagers who had endured endured years of poverty, there was hope that the it will bring about the much yearned for development to the area.

The establishment of a commercial Jatropha plantation project in the area was done by a group of business people, who acquired land for the cultivation of the plant.

But years down the line, the project, which was supposed to bring empowerment, can now be safely considered a “white elephant”.

The plant has been promoted for many years, as it was seen as an important crop that could end misery for the poor folk, however, for the villagers it was a dream that never was.

In as much as discovering the Jatropha plant had its potential in bringing development to Ntabazinduna, the project was doomed from the beginning as the late Chief Khayisa refused to bless the project.

Although acres and acres of land is covered with the jatropha plant there is a general resistance to the project.

“That project was imposed on us, we did not know it and we still don’t know it,” said a villager Menelisi Moyo.

He said some of the small jatropha trees had fallen prey to acts of vandalism owing to resistance.

“People are uprooting these trees as a way of resisting the project. They do not want the project here,” said Moyo.

He said when the project was started, it was clear then that many were determined to see the initiative bear fruits, but political fiddling stalled it.

“The project lost pace and I guess it was the end of it,” said Moyo.

In that regard, Ntabazinduna may never get to realise the potential of the Jatropha plant or any other viable alternative  energy sources for that matter.

Many people have forgotten about the jatropha project in Ntabazinduna, while plenty villagers looted the plants from the plantation for their own use.

Most villagers re-planted the tree in their homesteads for the purposes of shade than anything else.

Another villager, Sijabuliso Khanye said the project was imposed on the people and therefore people were generally against it.

“The jatropha issue was more political than anything else and that is why people did not have support for it,” said Khanye.

Jatropha cultivation does not in any way compete with food production. Jatropha seeds contain about 35% of non-edible oil.

That is, 6kg of seeds gives about 1,2 litres of oil, which can be converted to a number of uses, among them cooking and lighting, as an alternative for paraffin, as broiler fuel for industrial purposes and as a viable substitute for diesel.

But maybe the most appealing quality about the plant is its benefits to the environment, most significant of which is its ability to hedge and shelter belts by improving humus and fertilisers to the soil, thereby enhancing the productivity of other crops.

It is also capable of growing on marginal lands and has the ability to restore eroded areas and can serve as an efficient windbreak.

The truth of the matter is that the Jatropha plant has the potential to lessen Zimbabwe’s energy woes, with the whole country currently experiencing “dark spells’’ as a result of the persistent power cuts.

The plant also has the potential to elevate the rural poor who, besides getting an income from growing Jatropha, will have a cheaper source of fuel.

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