By Ndafadza Madanha
GOVERNMENT lost out on a US$12 million funding from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) after it failed through the ministry of Finance and Economic Development to assign national priority status to the Jatropha project.
This is despite government allocating 15 000 hectares of land to Finealt BIODIESEL a special purpose vehicle it formed for the growing of Jatropha whose seed would be converted into biodiesel.
The land situated in Nyakadecha (Mashonaland East) on the border with Mozambique could revive a project that was mooted a decade and received considerable hype from government but was hamstrung but unavailability of funds.
While the project was subject to public derision locally it received a major boost last year when Finealt’s proposal for funding was accepted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
However, delays by government in issuing the project national priority status has led to IRENA freezing funding and Finealt will have to look for other partners to kicks-tart operations.
Finealt Engineering manager Charles Kanyunga who doubles as the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) Electronic Engineering chair said the company has two plants in Mt Hampden and Mutoko but both are operating below capacity owing to lack of Jatropha seed.
The Mt Hampden Plant was installed and commissioned in 2009 with support from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has capacity to produce 100million litres of biodiesel per annum. The Mutoko plant has capacity to do 3000litres a day.
“We were given land in Nyakadecha near the Mozambique border amounting to 15 000 hectares to grow Jatropha, and from the little resources we got from the fiscus we managed to open 100 hectares of that land.
On the land we have opened up we have intercropped because Jatropha takes three years to germinate, so we are intercropping with sunflower and groundnuts.
Last year we made an application to IRENA and submitted a full proposal to the board which was assessed on various aspects such as viability, manpower and capacity and it was chosen for funding on condition of getting an undertaking from government that the project will be given priority.
Unfortunately treasury assumed we required a guarantee and was unable to give us the required letter until IREAN on the 11th of January 2018 wrote to us indicating that the funding was frozen as we failed to avail the letter showing government support,”.
Kanyunga said despite this setback IRENA had shared its proposal with another organization Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN) which has indicated its desire to support the project and has capacity to disburse up to US$50m.
“We are already engaging PFAN and they have assigned a coach to us to help bring our document to their standards and another company from Singapore J-Oil is also keen on partnering with us”.
Additionally the cake can be detoxified and be used as organic fertilizer or used as biogas.
Currently Finealt is providing 20 000 litres to NOIC every fortnight and has contracted farmers in Mutoko under an out growers schemes to grow Jatropha.
Kanyunga said there was need to raise awareness on the importance of the adopting alternative energy models and the impact the biodiesel project can have on the country.