25) IFAD supports biofuels research-for-development project led by ICRISAT

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations has committed US dollar 1.5 million funding for a three-year biofuels research-for-development project led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

IFAD is the first among the development investors supporting international agricultural research institutes under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that has committed support for a biofuels project. The project will facilitate farmers and entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing bio-diesel.

The Inter-Center project, involving ICRISAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the appropriate national agricultural research centers, will involve popularization of the cultivation of sweet sorghum in India, the Philippines, China and Mali; cassava in Vietnam and Colombia; and jatropha in India and Mali. Research results on producing ethanol from the juice of stalks of sweet sorghum and roots of cassava, and bio-diesel from the seeds of jatropha are quite encouraging.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the project will support the farmers of the drylands with the latest research and research products and link them with the biofuel market. Thus they will be able to improve their incomes and livelihoods from the biofuel revolution. He thanked IFAD for committing support to this unique project that linked multiple crops and institutions across multiple continents.

The project facilitates entrepreneurs to utilize sweet sorghum stalks and cassava roots in producing ethanol, and seeds of jatropha in producing bio-diesel. The above program will be implemented by sensitizing farmers, research partners and other stakeholders in the production and supply chain about biofuel production. This will enable them to work together and make use of projectís research outputs, such as, improved target crop cultivars, production packages, seed systems, processing technologies (including management of effluents and exploitation of by-products), and learn about innovative input and market linkages developed for different agro-eco-regions in the target countries.

In addition, the project draws upon the strength of small-scale farmersí know-how in formulating and implementing various activities. The overall purpose of the project is thus to facilitate small-scale farmers and landless poor to take advantage of the market demand for their crops for bio-fuel production and/or utilize the bio-fuels for local use (e.g. running motor pump), which in turn, will help them improve their livelihoods and rehabilitate the degraded lands (wherever jatropha and local species of bio-diesel plantations are taken up).

The project also envisages facilitating the development of farmer-friendly procedures to enable them to take advantage of the clean development mechanism (CDM), of the Kyoto protocol, to improve their livelihoods. The project contributes to energy self-sufficiency of the target countries.

Bio-fuels are gaining importance as fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing and also the growing concerns globally over environmental pollution associated with fossil fuels. Considering these issues, several developed and developing countries are formulating policies for mandatory blending of ethanol and bio-diesel (produced from renewable sources) with fossil fuels (petrol and diesel) resulting in a huge demand for raw materials for producing bio-fuels.

In the semi-arid and seasonally dry tropics/sub tropics of India, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Mali and Colombia millions of poor farmers cultivate sorghum and cassava as staple food and fodder crops. Jatropha is grown as hedge/avenue and forest shrub/tree to extract oil from the seeds for use in lighting and for other uses such as leather tanning.

For further information, contact Dr Belum V Subba Reddy at b(dot)reddy(at)cgiar(dot)org.

© by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.