Biofuels for local use
Bio-fuels get a lot of attention because of climate change and the limited resources of fossil fuels. The problem is that production of crop to be used for fuel can take the space for food production when farmers can earn more. This will make food more expensive. And local biodiversity can harmed too. We must find better solutions.
A better solution
STRO (Social TRade Organisatio) believes that the focus should be on local use, not on the export, of bio-fuel. Social TRade intends to foster local economies that are varied and sustainable. A community that offers only one commodity to the world market tends to lose its social and cultural structure. Social TRade emphasizes the development of diversified local economies. Production of fuels for local use is a logical first step.
Poor communities spend a huge part of the money earned through export on importing energy. This money cannot be used for capital goods that could raise the overall productivity and diversity of the community. For this reason the creation of local bio-fuels for local use is an area that can easily increase local purchasing power as well as its local circulation and thus contribute to our Social Trade goals. The technology to make direct use of these bio-fuels is available.
The Gota Verde project
The Gota Verde project in Honduras shows that local people themselves can adapt engines of cars and generators to the use of Pure Plant Oils. It also shows that trees with oil containing seeds can contribute to the local ecosystem. Trees are used as fences, provide shade in which other crops can flourish, etc.
In the Gota Verde project the production of bio-fuels for local use, the use of appropriate technologies for local pressing of the oil, the adaptations of the machinery, etc is organized within a system in which micro credits are combined with a local exchange system. This local development is further strengthened by constructing eco-houses of local materials.
All of these applied ideas have contributed to a healthier, more sustainable economy.
The plant that is being used is Jatropha, a shrub that does not need very much water, can grow also where the soil is too poor or dry for normal agriculture, and can be used for many purposes.
The project has a number of positive sides, different from other projects:
- Integral chain: besides biofuel much more is produced: fodder,natural gas (>electricity) organic fertilizer, soap, cooking oil (if other crops than Jatropha are being used)
- The fuels are only for local use
- The oil is being used as pure vegetable oil, and not for producing biodiesel – which means less costs and less chemicals
- The farmers are the shareholders. They can not be exploited by big commercial businesses
- The farmers get paid in ‘natura’, i.e. seedlings etc.
- Intercropping: Jatropha is grown in combination with other crops, f.i. as hedges between the fields
- Jatropha is planted on the hillsides, the roots are very good in preventing erosion