Case: Mali Jatropha Biofuel for Rural Electrification

Decentralised Jatropha Biofuel Rural Electrification Project: the Case of the Garalo Bagani Yelen Project – A New Paradigm of Energy for Sustainable Development

By Pierre Dembele, Mali Folkecenter (MFC), Climate Change department, INFORSE-Africa

1.1. Background of the project

Mali is among the poorest countries in the world and has a highly unequal income distribution. It is land-locked and has few export opportunities. Sixty-five percent of the land area is desert or semi-desert, and only 12% of the rural population have access to electricity, which is vital to increase productivity, add value to agricultural produce, increase income and enable rural people to escape from poverty.

In the context of climate change and ever more expensive and insecure fossil fuel supplies, Mali-Folkecenter Nyetaa (MFC) a malian NGO specialised in renewable energy and environmental protection, has been working since 1999 to develop pilot projects to demonstrate that pure Jatropha oil can fuel Mali’s future development in a sustainable way, to the benefit of local people.

Jatropha is an inedible oilseed that is able to grow in a semi-arid climate and it is native to Africa. These projects, focusing on pure Jatropha oil (see photo, woman collecting Jatropha seeds) as a diesel substitute for multi-functional platforms, transportation and rural electrification, are acting as a model for future electrification projects in Mali, West Africa, and internationally.

In the beginning of its activities, MFC has promoted the use of Jatropha oil as fuel in multifunctional platforms (small Lister-type diesel engine that powered cereals grinding machines, electric generators, mechanical presses etc ) to provide access to energy in rural areas. These systems are suitable to small village needs.

In order to upscale this experience MFC embarked in 2006 in Jatropha based rural electrification projects. The Garalo Bagani Yeelen project was initiated at that time.

The objective of this project is to reduce poverty of the village population and improve in greening the planet by concretely setting up and operating village electricity with Jatropha fuelled generator systems for 10 000 people in the Commune of Garalo, Mali. Other objectives of the work include:

· To expand access to clean energy technology that does not add to the growing problem of greenhouse gases and global warming or otherwise harms the fragile Sahelian environment & ecosystems.

· To promote social and economic development in remote rural communities using decentralized electricity generation and access to high quality energy services as the catalyst.

· To improve the livelihoods and living conditions of rural people by means of facilitating access to the benefits of electricity (lighting, refrigeration, clean water, and food processing etc.).

· Provide additional income generating opportunities to farming households through the growing and processing of Jatropha.

1.2. Description of the project activities
The project has been developed by MFC and has tree main components: the Jatropha plantation, the Jatropha oil production facility and the electricity production and distribution component.

Jatropha plantation

The Jatropha plantation plantations are made up of small parcels of land ranging between 0.5 and 5 hectares. Around 70% of the Jatropha plantations are intercrop with other crops. These crops include: Sunflower, Groundnut, Beans, Sesame, Fonio, Maize, Millet, Cotton, Cowpea, Potatoes, and Sorghum.

The Jatropha farmers are at the heart of the scheme, farmers in each village are organised into Jatropha producers village committees to organise & manage key activities at the village level e.g. seed collection and transport. The village committees in turn are members of the Garalo Jatropha Producers Cooperative involving more than 326 farmers, which operates at the level of the “commune” and is responsible for all matters concerning the supply chain from the Jatropha plantation, through the seeds collection and the production and sale of Jatropha oil and residues as fertilizer. The cooperative is supported by MFC with technical advice and training on Jatropha production, as well as with the supply of seed and seedlings. The farmers collect the Jatropha seeds and bring them to their local committee, then the cooperative organises its transport to the pressing facility for processing into pure Jatropha oil and its sale to ACCESS SARL. After the sale of oil to ACCESS, the revenues are distributed to the members of the cooperative via the local committees. The Jatropha cake will be used also use by the farmers as organic fertiliser.

Jatropha oil production facility

The oil production facility consists of a feeding bay where seed is deposited in a reception pit. From there, it is transported by a bucket elevator to a seed cleaner to remove stones and other debris by being passed over vibrating screens and past magnets to remove any metal shards. Then a second elevator lifts the clean seed to a storage hopper where the seed descends by gravity into two parallel mechanical screw presses with a capacity of 140kg/hour each. The press cake produced by the presses falls onto a conveyor belt and is deposited outside the building. The crude oil produced by the press flows into a sedimentation tank, after sedimentation the oil is first filtered in a plate filter to remove large particles, followed by a further three stages of filtration using sock filters of 5 microns, 1 micron and finally 0.5 microns.

Electricity production and distribution

The electricity production system consists of a power plant made up of 3 x 100kW diesel-generating sets. The engines have been modified to run on pure Jatropha oil and have a heat exchanger built into fuel system to reduce the viscosity of the Jatropha oil thereby making the oil suitable for use in the engine. The engine can be run on pure diesel or Jatropha or any combination. A switch system allows the operator to change from diesel to Jatropha oil by the use of a two-tank system.

From the power station the electricity is distributed via a low voltage distribution system providing 380V 3 phase and 230V single phase at 50Hz to approximately 400 customers. The total size of the grid is 13 km.

The electricity production, distribution and billing is managed by ACCESS, a company founded by MFC Nyetaa to undertake the generation and distribution of electricity within Garalo and other rural electrification projects. ACCESS is the sole concessionaire for the municipality of Garalo and was awarded 15-year concession by the Government of Mali through the Ministry of Energy, Mines & Water and its rural electrification agency AMADER. The tariff structure is determined by AMADER in collaboration with the local electricity committee made up of the representatives of the consumers, the Jatropha growers and the communal council. This committee also plays a vital role on the sensitisation of the population.

1.3. Benefits of the project

This innovative project provides electricity and other modern energy services to more than 10 000 peoples of Garalo commune, transforming the local economy. It does so by providing power for productive use in small industries and businesses, generating employment, and by supplying power for social uses in schools, the maternity clinic and community buildings as well as for domestic use. It also helps protect the local environment. Following are few examples of the benefits of the project.

· The whole chain from the Jatropha plantation up to the collection of seeds and their pressing to get the oil constitutes a new source of income for both wen and women. In fact women and children usually collect the seeds produced by the plantation.

· Masara Kané (see picture) runs a bustling restaurant on the main road through Garalo. With the arrival of electricity she says she can stay open longer and has increased revenues. She uses electricity for lighting and for charging mobile phones. She is now thinking about investing in a refrigerator, which would allow her to sell cold water and soft drinks.

· The availability of electricity is Garalo also offers opportunity for the establishment of small units for the processing of agro forestry products including milk pasteurisation, shea butter production, etc. All these activities will create additional value and will also contribute to food security.

· Electricity is also used in the health center of Garalo for lighting, which improves the birth giving conditions at night, and allows the conservation of medicine and vaccine.

· Before the electrification of Garalo many children used to read their schoolbooks using the poor-quality light provided by kerosene lamps which force them to get close to this dim light, resulting in unnecessary smoke inhalation and eyestrain. The electricity supply by the power plant of Garalo is of better quality and makes lessons reading more easer for students at night and this improve the education in the village and opportunities for the future.

· The electricity generated by the power plant also serves the villages water-pumping installation which provides clean water to the whole village. The water pumping system in Garalo was previously run on its own diesel genset. The annual saving due to the switching to the electricity grid is estimated by the operator of the water pumping system to 169 625 FCFA per year or 410 USD per year.

· In term of environmental benefit, it has been estimated that the Garalo project allows the saving of 135,000 tonnes of carbon over the 15-year life of the project, which equates to 9,000 tonnes/year. This small action at the local level contribute to the fight against climate change. The Jatropha plantations provide many others environmental advantages. Jatropha is well known in Mali where it is used for protective hedging, erosion control. Farmers also use the cake as organic fertiliser which reduce the use of chemical fertilizer which is an important source for greenhouse gases emissions. The Jatropha plant is also use as living fences to protect the farm again animal, as it is not edible. This avoids the cutting of trees to make fences to protect the garden and farms, thus avoiding déforestation.

1.4. Key Stakeholders

The project partners include:

· The Municipality of Garalo
· The Jatropha Cooperative
· The Electricity Committee
· Mali-Folkecenter, a Malian NGO,
· The Malian Agency for the Development of Household Energy and Rural Electrification (AMADER),
· DOEN Foundation, Netherlands,
· Christian AID,
· FACT Foundation (Fuels from Agriculture in Communal Technology), founded by a group of biofuel specialists,

1.5. Lessons learned and Policy implication for sustainable biofuel production

There is currently a great debate about the use, advantages and dangers of biofuel use in Africa. However, the Garalo project described above clearly shows that, properly designed biofuel projects have the potential to stimulate the local economy through provision of new income sources and jobs, and through access to modern energy services and other sub products like organic fertiliser. The danger come from the fact that many biofuel projects have been conceived from an export or big scale based perspective, with the main focus being on supply of cheap feedstock for biofuel consumption in the global North. This will lead to massive monoculture production and vast-scale slash-and-burn practices to create new fields for production. This has jeopardised food security, and in some areas has even turned populations into wage slaves on their own land. In such scenarios, the economic benefits for large international companies are important, but the potential environmental benefits of biofuel use are completely negated.

The Garalo Jatropha fuelled electrification project, while safeguarding the supply of Jatropha oil for electricity production, is also providing new diversified incomes for local people. As such this kind of project represents the new paradigm for sustainable biofuel development in Africa. This clearly shows that biofuel project should benefits first the local population in order to be sustainable. In this regards the three pillars being promoted by Mali-Folkecenter are:

More information:
Information on MFC´s Jatropha activities here.


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· East Africa: Scaling up Access to Modern Energy Services

  · Kenya: Decentralizing Power Policy
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  · Mali: Jatropha Biofuel for Rural Electrification

· Mali: Productive Use of Energy

  · Mali: Solar Lighting Kits for Rural Areas
  · Uganda: Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy
  · India: Solar Dryer
  · India: Solar Lantern Charging Station
  · India: Household Biogas Plant
  · India: Micro-Agroecological Village Development Model
  · Nepal: Improved Water Mills
  · Nepal: Charging Centre for Solar Lamps
  · Sri Lanka: Commercialization of Improved Cookstoves
  · Sri Lanka: Standard Code for Domestic Biogas Systems
The cases were collected in the framework of the "Southern Voices on Climate Change" Project. Link: