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Jatropha for Biofuel production in Ghana

Main Author: Obed Asamoah        Revised by: Pemelyn Santos 

Description of the product or technology.

Mankind have three major basic needs namely food, water and shelter. These essential needs cannot be acquired without energy. Energy is viewed as the lifeblood of our society and economy. It is needed for mobility, cooking, heating and cooling homes (Hamilton, 2002) as cited by (Smith, 2008) (Gebregiorgis, 2015). Worldwide production of biofuels have been increasing and highly driven by sharp increase in oil prices. The use of biofuels aims to decrease the use of fossil fuels and incorporating environmental protection and other environmental benefits that comes along with it. In this regard, the Government of Ghana has set a goal to use 10 percent renewable fuels for electricity and transportation by 2020 and encourages international investment in the pursuit of job creation and economic growth. As of 2011, the country attracted over 20 companies from around the world seeking to acquire tracts of land to cultivate biofuels such as jatropha, oil palm and sugarcane.

In recent years, Jatropha Curcas has emerged with a promising opportunity for sustainable biofuel production due to several positive properties that are attributed to it, such as high yield, low water and fertilizer requirements, high resistance to pests, and not the least its ability to grow on marginal land without competing with food production (Jongschaap, 2007). Jatropha (Jatropha Curcas L.) which belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, originated from Central America but can be found most of the tropics currently, including Africa and Asia. The jatropha plant can grow in wastelands and grows on any terrain, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. Moreover, it is also grow and survive in poor and stony soils. However, new research suggests that the plant’s ability to adapt to these conditions is not as extensive as stated earlier. Jatropha plant is normally used as an ornamental for its continuously blossoming crimson flowers. It is also important to note that jatropha seeds are considered toxic as they contain toxalbumin curcin, which is very poisonous and inhibits protein synthesis.


Figure 1. Women in Northern Ghana manually extracting oil from Jatropha seeds

In Ghana, jatropha is already being cultivated in the Northern part of the country. Women from this part of the country engaged in shea butter production, use jatropha oil in place of diesel in the multi-functional platforms (MFPs) comprising shea butter press, dehuller and the mill. Since it’s quite cheaper to use jatropha oil in these MFPs, commercial cultivation of jatropha and subsequent extraction of the oil for such purposes are done in the rural northern Ghana to empower women in the area of job creation.

Source: Advanced Biofuel in the USA.

Market Description of Jatropha as Biofuel and other fuels in Ghana.

From 2005 to 2010, there was an upsurge in the acquisition of land and cultivation of the plant Jatropha as feedstock for biodiesel production in Ghana (Richmond, 2013). This development was prompted mainly by rapid increases in fossil fuel prices on the international market during that same period. The government of Ghana has come to the realization of going into the venture of Jatropha cultivation for the production biodiesel which will be used by the local people. Also, to use it as fuel for governmental vehicles and offices. Most of the investors speculated a concomitant high demand for biodiesel and other biofuel feedstock. In addition, the government is aiming to increase the capacity of the country to produce biodiesel and ethanol to 430 million and 170 million, respectively (Antwi, 2010) . The investments were also instigated by international developments such as the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Directive of 2030, which is aimed at promoting the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport. This presumed the availability of markets for biodiesel and feedstock for biodiesel production.

Table 1.  Jatropha and oil palm production.

Model & cropAgricultural Income generatedLabor created in the agricultural SectorEnvironmental Impact
Oil Palm Mining$ 9,401,080$ 4,766,89317,031 Ha
Oil Palm Export$ 23,502,70031,93342,577 Ha
Jatropha National$ 11,917,23374,888 (4 months harvesting)27, 958 Ha
Jatropha Mining.$ 4,766,89329,955 (4 months harvesting)11, 183 Ha

 Source: Technoserve, final report feasibility study of biofuel production in Ghana.

The above table shows how Jatropha production is growing up as compared to that of Oil Palm which is a native oil plant. In general, oil palm generates higher income as compared to Jatropha due to how old oil palm has been in the system for long and majority of farmers are into it production. In the mining model, palm oil generates an estimated $9,401,080 USD per year, while Jatropha generates approximately half of that. It is seen that Jatropha is really going well in the system and when given much attention it will really be a good source of oil for biofuel in Ghana.

Description of the policy measures.

In response to the demand to satisfy both international and domestic energy needs, Ghana’s government published the Strategic National Energy Plan in 2006, which mandates 10% blends of gasohol and biodiesel (Ailey, 2011). The policy on the development of biofuels followed recommendations made by the Biofuels Committee set up in 2005. Among their recommendations are stated as below;

• 20 per cent of national gasoline consumption replaced with biodiesel by 2015

• 30 per cent of national kerosene consumption replaced with jatropha oil by 2015

• Removal of institutional barriers SNEP may have considered the recommendations too ambitious and therefore adopted the following target;

• 10 per cent penetration of liquid fuels by renewable and alternative fuel by 2015 expanding to reach 20 per cent by 2020

• To become self-sufficient in petroleum products by 2015 and net exporter by 2020

(Antwi, 2010)

Biofuels are basically produced from agricultural and forest products hence the need to have sufficient feedstock to meet the demand of the people. Ghana is endowed with many oil-bearing food crops. Some of these edible or non-edible fruits and other products in the forest are used for the production of biofuel. However, recent cultivation of jatropha was apparently not seen as an economic venture because of the low-end use of oil in the country. The figure below represent some products that the government has started using. And with these resources, they encourage people to go into the planting these crops for the production of the biofuel in Ghana.


Figure 3. Feedstock requirement to meet demand of substituting 10 and 20 per cent of diesel consumed by 2015 and 2020, respectively.

Source: International Journal of Energy and Environment (IJEE), Volume 1,

The government of Ghana seeks to create a favourable climate for international investment in the pursuit of job creation, economic growth, and increased competitiveness in regional and international trade. In support to investment under the 1992 Constitution, foreigners may acquire land through 50-year leases which can be renewed for consecutive terms.

In addition, the energy sector of the country has started the National Electrification Scheme, a Self-Help Electrification Program, a National Offgrid Rural Electrification Program, and a Renewable Energy Development Program (REDP). Wherein the REDP aims to: assess the availability of renewable energy resources, examine the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of promising renewable energy technologies, ensure the efficient production and use of the Ghana’s renewable energy resources, and develop an information base that facilitates the establishment of a planning framework for the rational development and the use of the Ghana’s renewable energy resources (Asumadu-Sarkodie & Owusu, 2016).

Evaluation of the effect of these measures.

The government of Ghana is doing its best to have an alternative sources to lessen the high consumption of fossil fuel. Jatropha is seen as a good option for biofuel production. However, the challenge is to make land owners, chiefs, and farmers offer their land or collaborate with investors to cultivate jatropha and produce biofuel. The existing policy and programs implemented in the country fulfils the intention to lean more on the utilisation of renewable energy. The readiness of the stakeholder limits the progress of the government's efforts to increase the investment. Hence, people should be educated to know the benefits and opportunities that will be obtained in using biofuel as energy in Ghana. 


5.0. References

Ailey, K. H.-C. (2011). pressures on land from large-in ghana. Focus on Land in Africa.

Antwi, E., Bensah, E., Quansah, D., Arthur, R., Ahiekpor, J. (2010). Ghana's biofuels policy: Challenges and the way forward. International Journal of Energy and Environment. 1. 

Gebregiorgis, B. M. (2015). The economic impacts of maize-based bioethanol production in South Africa. Retrieved 12 8, 2018, from

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Ghana., E. C. (2013). Energy commission supply and demand 2013. retrieved from 2018 .

Energy Commission, Ghana. (n.d.). Retrieved from .

Richmond, A.-B. E. (2013). Land Grabbing and Jatropha Boom in Ghana. Berkeley Beahrs Environmental leadership program.

Asumadu-Sarkodie, S., Owusu, P. A. (2016). A review of Ghana’s energy sector national energy statistics and policy framework. Cogent Engineering, 3(1). doi:10.1080/23311916.2016.1155274

Smith, M. (2008). A multiple scenario analysis into the potential for bioethanol production from maize in South Africa’. Master’s thesis (Unpublished) University of Johannersburg.


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