Sabah can become largest producer of Jatropha-based biodiesel
Sabah has the potential to become the largest producer of Jatropha crude oil, a key ingredient in the production of biodiesel. Plans are afoot to open up large scale plantations utilizing marginal lands that are in abundance in the interior, in particular Nabawan, said Sabah Land Development Board General Manager, Jhuvarri Majid at the unveiling of the proposed National Jatropha Research and Development Complex by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Abdullah Ahmad Badawi here yesterday. Jhuvarri said initial research and tests carried out so far at SLDB’s trial plot in Binakaan, near here, have given very positive indications that large scale Jatropha plantations could thrive. “We are very excited over the progress made so far and this R&D complex would spur us further into making commercial Jathropha plantations a reality very soon,” he said. He said priority would however be given to ensuring the successful implementation of a programme to help out in poverty eradication among hardcore poor in the interior. “As one of SLDB ‘s main focus and the main thrust of the Sabah Development Corridor, poverty eradication is uppermost in our plan and that will be our focus,” said Jhuvarri. “Commercial plantations will come in soon after as these investors too will help in developing the interior by providing infrastructure necessary when opening up their plantations.” Nabawan, located deep in Sabah’s interior, is very much an underprivileged area. Due to the lack of infrastructure and its remoteness, the largest concentration of hardcore poor, with some 1,200 families, can be found here. Touching on the R&D complex, Jhuvarri said it is a national project and plans are being prepared for submission to the relevant authorities in the shortest time possible. SLDB has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with a local company, Borneo Alam Ria Biomatrix Sdn Bhd, for training and transfer of technology as well as providing other technical expertise on Jatropha. The R&D complex or resource centre is a national project designed to spearhead the cultivation of this non-edible plant which also has a good number of other uses, in particular, traditional medicine. Through an ingenuous plan, SLDB will open up parcels of land for the hardcore poor to grow Jatropha to sell back its seeds to the agency. By opening up commercial estates to plant Jatropha, there will be lots of infrastructure development in the district, as well as hundreds of job opportunities. All these will help in uplifting the standard of living of the people in this district. Nabawan would no longer be the same, come three years from now. The complex, expected to cost some RM131 million, will have all the supporting facilities to make it the premier R&D station on Jatropha in the world. These facilities include a nursery, refinery and factory for byproducts, bulking installations, an administration block, library, training hall, accommodation, clinic, surau and sport facilities. The modern nursery will provide high quality plantlets for supply to all participants of SLDB’s poverty eradication programme as well as smallholders, and in future, commercial plantations. The complex will be self- financing in the long term and will be staffed mainly by Malaysians, with those from Sabah given preference. At the launch of the SDC in January this year, the Prime Minister flagged off a B20-driven Land Cruiser, creating history in the process, as it was the first time an unmodified engine was powered by Jatropha-based biodiesel. This prompted the Prime Minister to seek further details from SLDB on the Jatropha.-based biodiesel as well as Jatropha cultivation. Meetings were held between SLDB officials as well as those from the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, and subsequently Sabah was offered to host the national R&D Complex.