Bio-diesel plant left to rot in militancy plagued Bara
PESHAWAR: Conflict in Khyber Agency has undermined the introduction of Jatropha Curcas, a bio-diesel plant, on community lands in Akkakhel, Bara sub-division, delaying its economic return to tribal people, officials say.
First harvest of Jatropha Curcas, planted on the newly developed community farms in Akkakhel, was due in 2010 but farmers could not materialise the opportunity, said a development planner of federal government.
“How can crop’s yield be taken in a situation when we can’t dare go there,” said the official, involved in introduction of the plant in Akkakhel.
Jatropha Curcas was cultivated on hundreds of acres of community land, with ownership rights shared by around 60 Akkakhel farm families, as part of the federal government-funded Sustainable Plains Development Programme aimed at bringing wasteland under cultivation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Imported from Costa Rica, Jatropha Curcas saplings were planted on the community land in 2009 in line with a SPDP plan to introduce drought resistant varieties in the area, promoting community farming on sustainable basis.
The programme staff, said the official, had not visited the plantation since early 2010, leaving it unattended as the community had also headed to safer places after Lashkar-i-Islam took control of the area.
Apart from the bio-diesel plants, the authorities had cultivated olive, black pepper and some medicinal plants on the over 200 acres community farm. “Except for Jatropha, other plantations are said to have vanished,” said the official, adding they could not survive in the absence of proper care.
He said that introduction of Jatropha Curcas in Akkakhel had been a success as the plants recorded considerable growth during the first eight-month period after they were planted in mid-2009.
“There were good chances of getting fuel (diesel) from the first year produce, but the plan did not materialise owing to heightened militant activities in the programme area,” said an SPDP official.
According to scientific research, he said, around 37 per cent oil could be extracted from Jatropha Curcas of which some 20 per cent could be used without modification to operate any diesel-run electricity generator.
It was introduced in Akkakhel, he said, because of its suitability to the area, a semi-arid zone with no manmade irrigation system.
The official said that Jatropha usually succeeded in areas that didn’t support any vegetation due to lack of irrigation water, environmental deficiencies or because of other reasons.
Bara has seen a mass displacement as thousands of families belonging to Akkakhel, Sturikhel, Sipah, Malakdinkhel, Qamberkhel and Shaluber left their houses owing to safety concerns. The paramilitary Frontier Corps has been conducting a crackdown since 2009 in the area against the banned militant outfit, Lashkar-i-Islam.
The SPDP official said that the energy plant was introduced in Bara after its introduction in Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a couple of places in Punjab proved quite a success. “We were really hopeful about its success the way it recorded growth in its early stages in Akkakhel area,” he said.
He said that economic return of the plantation would be possible if it survived the tide of militancy. “As per our reports gathered form different sources, the Jatropha Curcas plants are intact, which give us a hope that the community will have something to feel good about when it gets back after peace returns to the area,” said the official.
The plant had been introduced to Bara, he said, to improve local economy by creating income generating activities at grassroots level, sensitising tribal communities about the current energy crisis and best practices to control it.