HARARE, Oct 9 (AFP): Reeling under the country's worst fuel crisis, Zimbabwe is looking at a scheme to make "bio-diesel" from a tough drought-resistant shrub.
A Harare machine maker has launched a project to get Zimbabweans to extract oil from the seed of the jatropha tree, which is commonly used as a garden hedge in the dry northern regions.
The jatropha (jatropha curcas), a shrub from South America that grows up to eight metres, is used in many African countries in the manufacture of candles and soap, cooking and lighting oil in rural homes.
"Because of the current fuel shortages, prices keep going up making the production of your own fuel an economically viable option," says Andy White, the director of Appropriate Technolgoy for Africa, a small machine-making business based in Harare.
"We will teach people how to make the bio-diesel and provide the oil presses and other machines."
Whyte refused to divulge his recipe for "green diesel", but said that it is made by mixing "appropriate" amounts of jatropha oil with ethanol and caustic soda.
Zimbabwe has faced serious fuel shortages since 1999, but the current crunch, which has seen meandering queues at gas stations, is the worst ever.
ATA is collecting jatropha seed to demonstrate to people how to make the commodity, the latest alternative after an earlier project by the government to make diesel out of sugar cane failed.