Some of Kenya’s most innovative entrepreneurs are exploring the amazing economic and energy potentials of croton plant seeds. According to a CNN, the seeds of the Croton megalocarpus, a tree commonly used for firewood and windbreakers throughout much of East and Central Africa, is being used for the production of cost-effective biofuels on the continent.
Although previous attempts at large-scale biofuel production, particularly from the seeds of the jatropha plant, were disappointing failures, the croton has so far proven to be a resounding success.
The fast-growing tree, which can reach heights of about 36 meters, reaches full maturity in about five to seven years. It is drought resistant, provides a canopy, and typically yields fruits twice a year. The seeds of the croton plant are also high in protein and oil.
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The oil from the croton plant, known as the croton nut oil, is a proven eco-friendly source of energy. Environmentalists say it is important in combating climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and helping break the global dependence on fossil fuels. As an alternative to diesel, tests show the oil to be self-lubricating with a higher flash point, which makes it safer and causes lower exhaust emissions.
In Kenya, the nuts, which are locally known as Mukinduri, have become an important source of income. In 2012, Eco Fuels Kenya, a start-up owned by businessman Allan Paul launched a business model that explored the use of the croton seeds in a cost-effective production of biofuels. The company also reuses the by-products for the production of organic fertilizers and animal feeds.
The previously wasted resource is now sold by the kilogram, providing a decent source of income for farmers who have taken to cultivating the croton tree, as well those who forage for the seeds from the forest.
Cosmas Ochieng, Eco Fuels Kenya’s director of operations, told the Standard that, “In an hour, a collector can make between $2 and $3. For farmers who have croton trees, we buy seeds directly from them, but we also have 1,800 collectors who supply our 50 collection centers.”
We use the seeds to develop the biofuel, which can replace diesel fuel in slow-spinning engines and it has no chemical additives. Due to its natural properties, [the oil] burns cleaner than traditional diesel fuel, lubricates engines, and contains zero percent sulphuric content.”