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RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Master Thesis

Kenneth Maxwell Gyasi

NORWEGIAN UNIVERSITY OF LIFE SCIENCES

08:04:2008

Kenneth Maxwell Gyasi


Postboks 1029
1432 As
Norway
ID Number: 02127018939
Bank Account Number: 12015838297
Tax Municipality: Ski
Table of contents
TITLE................................................................................................................................

INTRODUCTION / BACKGROUND…………………………………………………..

PROBLEM STATEMENT……………………………………………………………....

OBJECTIVES……………………………………………………………………………

RESEARCH QUESTIONS……………………………………………………………...

LITERATURE REVIEW………………………………………………………………..

DESCRIPTION OF STUDY AREA…………………………………………………….

METHODOLOGY………………………………………………………………………

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS………………………………………………………..

RESEARCH OUTCOMES………………………………………………………………

PLAN OF WORK………………………………………………………………………..

REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………..
Title
The title of the thesis has not yet been finalized but a working title could be
‘Cultivation of biofuels and its effect on food security’ A look at the
cultivation of Jatropha curcas L. in Ghana.

Introduction
There is no doubt about the fact that the modern world is hungry and thirsty
for an alternative source of energy to petroleum fuels. Three major reasons
may account for this hunger. Firstly, the world’s oil reserves are gradually
dwindling at a very fast rate and demand for oil is sharply outstripping
supply, thereby dramatically pushing up oil prices (Pahl, 2005). Secondly, it
is estimated that about two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves are located in
the middle east, a region considered as the most unstable part of the world.
Therefore the region cannot be effectively relied upon by the rest of the
world for an uninterrupted supply of oil. Furthermore, the production of
fossil fuel releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
leading to global warming with its untold consequences.

Biofuel is one of the alternative sources of energy that has generated a lot of
enthusiasm and new possibilities in recent times. Biofuels are liquid or
gaseous fuels that are derived from the biomass of energy crops (Pahl,
2005). Biofuels include ethanol (grain alcohol), methanol (wood alcohol),
methane, hydrogen and biodiesel. However, ethanol and biodiesel are the
two fuels that have generated much interest and are in commercial
production in recent years. Ethanol is derived from the conversion of
biomass carbohydrate into sugar and the subsequent fermentation of the
sugar. Biodiesel, on the other hand, is produced through the
transesterification of organically derived oils or fats (IPC, 2006). ‘Ethanol
can be used as a fuel oxygenate and, in compatible engines, as a substitute
for gasoline (petrol). Biodiesel can replace petroleum diesel, but it is
typically mixed for commercial use in 2/98, 5/95 or 20/80
biodiesel/petroleum diesel blends’ (IPC, 2006). The commonly used Biofuel
crops include food crops such as corn, sugarcane, soybeans, sunflower and
rapeseed. The common non-food crops that are planted for their energy
conversion include switch grass, miscanthus, castor and jatropha.

Various countries have made significant strides in the production of biofuels


in recent years. These include Brazil and the United States which are
regarded as the leading producers of bioethanol from sugarcane and corn
respectively. Production of biofuel from soybeans is also increasing in the
United States. Malaysia and Indonesia are noted for the production of
biodiesel from palm oil while Germany has produced quite a significant
amount of fuel from rapeseed. In 2005, Germany produced over half of the
world’s biodiesel from rapeseed (IPC, 2006). The use of jatropha as a fuel
stock has actually taken root in India and many African countries such as
Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and
Zimbabwe in recent years. For example, the government of India (GOI) has
launched a national mission on biofuels with the aim of achieving a target of
20% blending of biodiesel by 2012 and this is expected to be derived from
jatropha oil seeds to be planted on about 13.4 million hectares of marginal
land (GOI, 2003 as cited in Rajagopal, 2008).
Problem statement
In this research project, I will analyse the yield and method of crop
establishment and develop an environmentally friendly method of jatropha
cultivation at Sogakope, Ghana. I will employ both qualitative and
quantitative data to analyse the situation.

Objectives
Objective 1:
To find out how to improve the yield of jatropha.

Research questions
1. Which of the varieties of jatropha give the maximum yield?
2. Under what growing conditions can a maximum yield be achieved?
3. What are the obstacles to achieving a maximum yield and how can they
be overcome?

Objective 2:
To develop an effective and efficient method of jatropha crop establishment.

Research questions
1. What method of propagation of jatropha is most effective and efficient?
2. Does the method of propagation have any effect on yield?

Objective 3:
To develop an environmentally friendly method of jatropha cultivation.

Research questions
1. What are the alternatives to ploughing (in order to reduce soil compaction
and the release of soil carbon which is a greenhouse gas)?
2. What is the most effective and efficient method of controlling weeds
(without using chemical weedicides)?
3. What is the effect of irrigation and chemical fertilizer application on the
environment and how can they be minimized?
Objective 4:
To establish a good working relationship and co-operation between the
company (Biofuel As) and the community.

Research questions
1. What is the existing relationship between the company and the
community?
2. How can this relationship be improved?

Objective 5:
To develop information systems database for jatropha cultivation at
Sogakope.

Research question
1. What is the planting date, time, variety planted, planting distance, weather
conditions at the time of planting, method of planting, size of land planted
(acres), quantity of seeds used, and nature of soil at planting site?
2. What type of fertilizer was applied (if any), time of fertilizer application,
quantity applied per acre and method of application?
3. What method of weed control was adopted?
4. Were the crops irrigated? Type of irrigation used, time of irrigation,
number of times irrigated per week and quantity of water used per acre of
land?

Literature review
Jatropha curcas L. (physic nut) is a drought resistant perennial crop
belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is a small tree or shrub having a
smooth grey bark, which exudes whitish, watery, latex when cut. The plant
normally grows to a height of between three to five metres. However, under
favourable growing conditions, it can attain a height of up to eight or ten
metres. It is easy to establish and grows well in poor or marginal soils. It is a
tough plant, grows relatively quickly and easy to establish and propagate.
Jatropha grows in many parts of Africa including Ghana.

The true origin of the plant is still not clear, however, it is believed to have
originated from Mexico and Central America (Jatropha, Africa). It now
grows in most parts of the world especially the tropics and subtropics.
Jatropha is a drought resistant crop which is adapted to arid and semi-arid
conditions. It requires an annual rainfall of 300-1000 mm to thrive, with an
average of 600 mm, although it can survive three years of drought by
dropping its leaves (Reuk). It usually grows at annual temperatures of about
20-28 degrees Celsius, although it can tolerate a light frost (Jatropha,
Africa). It grows on well drained soils with good aeration but is also adapted
to poor soils with low nutrient content. It has low water requirement and
does not require irrigation. The plant sheds its leaves during the dry season
and winter months in order to reduce transpiration and conserve moisture. It
is cultivated at a planting distance of 2 metre intervals and about 2500 plants
can be cultivated per hectare.

Jatropha is a fast growing plant which begins to bear fruits in the second
year and continues for the next forty to fifty years. Optimal yields are
obtained from the sixth year. Flowering of the plant occurs during the wet
season and it takes about three months for the fruits to reach maturity. Two
flowering seasons are usually observed during the year. However, flowering
can occur throughout the year with good all year round soil moisture and
sufficiently high temperatures. The annual seed yield ranges from 0.5 to 12
tonnes per hectare. Jatropha produces seeds with an oil content of about 37
to 40%. It produces over 2000 barrels of oil per square mile per year (Reuk).
One hectare of jatropha yields about 7 tonnes of seeds per year which yields
about 2.2 - 2.7 tonnes of oil. The oil pressed from 4 kg of seeds is needed to
make 1 litre of biodiesel (Reuk).

Jatropha is regarded by many as the ‘wonder crop’ for biofuel production


due to its numerous advantages over conventional petroleum diesel.

A lot of concerns have been expressed about future food security due to the
potential competition of biofuel crops with other food crops for land. Using
good quality arable farmland for biofuel crop production will inevitably lead
to food insecurity and high food prices beyond the reach of the world’s poor
people. However, jatropha can be grown on marginal land or poor soils with
low nutrient content. Research has shown that jatropha increases the fertility
of the land on which it is grown, thus making it possible to be used for the
production of food crops in subsequent years (Reuk).
Jatropha has a very high oil yield. Over 200 barrels of oil yield can be
achieved per square mile per year as compared to rice and corn which yield
almost 1000 barrels and under 200 barrels per square mile per year
respectively (Reuk). Jatropha oil does not contain sulphur. Therefore, it is a
source of clean, low emission fuel.
Unlike the common biofuel crops such as corn and sugarcane, the cultivation
of jatropha does not require irrigation nor suffer during periods of drought,
thus making it more suitable to cultivate by poor farmers in developing
countries who almost entirely depend on rain fed agriculture.
Jatropha trees shed their leaves during the dry season in order to reduce
transpiration loss and to conserve moisture. The leaves form mulch around
the base of the plant and also prevent soil erosion. Organic matter from the
decomposition of shed leaves improves the fertility of the soil.
It is possible to intercrop jatropha with many cash crops such as coffee,
sugar, fruits and vegetables. Jatropha can be used as a hedge or a border
plant to offer protection against livestock.
The pressed cake from the processing of jatropha is a good source of organic
matter. The detoxified oil pressed cake of jatropha can be used as an animal
feed whilst a second by-product called bio-glycerol can also be used for
soap-making and pharmaceuticals.
A special characteristic of jatropha lies in its ability to absorb high levels of
carbon from the atmosphere, thus helping to reduce carbon dioxide
concentration in the atmosphere and hence pollution. Jatropha cultivation
can also earn carbon credits.

Description of study area


The research will take place in Sogakope in the Volta region of Ghana,
about 110 km from Tema, the largest seaport in Ghana, where a Norwegian
biofuel company, Biofuel As, has acquired a 950 hectare farmland for
jatropha cultivation. Out of the 950 hectares, about 200 hectares have
already been planted with jatropha over the past 15 months.

Sogakope is the capital town of the South Tongu district of the Volta
region. The district covers an area of 448 km2 with a population of 64,852
(2002 census, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogakope). The main economic
activities of the people are farming, fishing, animal rearing, petty commerce
and tourism. The district has a tropical climate with moderate temperatures
of about 21-30 degrees Celsius (70-90 degrees Fahrenheit) for most part of
the year. The average annual rainfall figure is between 1168 mm and 2103
mm. There are two rainy seasons within the year, from March to July and
from mid-August to October.
Politically, the district is headed by the District Chief Executive who is
responsible for the day-to-day executive and administrative functions of the
district assembly and is the chief representative of the central government.

I have chosen Sogakope as my study area because it is an area of large scale


jatropha cultivation for Biofuel, covering about 950 hectares of land area.
Moreover, majority of the inhabitants are farmers. Therefore, it is an ideal
place to conduct a research on yield analysis of jatropha.

Methodology

The nature of my research involves yield analysis, crop establishment,


method of cultivation and the development of a database for jatropha
cultivation at Sogakope, Ghana. These assessments require a quantitative
approach. According to Bryman (2004), quantitative research is a research
strategy that entails the collection of numerical data. I will employ the
survey design and the face to face type of structured interview for my data
collection. I will then use SPSS to analyse the data set that has been
gathered. I expect to acquire this data from Biofuel As and from the
interview conducted on farmers and to compare and contrast the two data
sets in order to look out for any discrepancies. Where necessary, I will
conduct field experiments to obtain the needed data.

On the issue of establishing good relationship between the company and the
community, I will employ qualitative interviews to find out the existing
relationship between the company and the community and how this
relationship can be improved. Bryman (2004) defines qualitative research as
a type of research that emphasizes words rather than quantification and has a
‘preference for an emphasis on the ways in which individuals interpret their
social world’. Here, I will employ the semi-structured type of qualitative
interview for my data collection. I will make use of interview guide or key
questions. My main informants will be farmers and Biofuel As.

Ethical considerations

Ethical issues in social research can be identified in four main areas namely;
harm to participants, lack of informed consent, invasion of privacy and
deception (Diener and Crandall, 1978, as cited in Bryman, 2004).

In the course of my research, I will try as much as possible to make clear to


my informants about who I am, where I come from and the purpose of my
research. I will make sure that all informants willingly give out information
without any form of coercion or negative inducement.

Finally, I will ensure that every information obtained from my informants is


kept in confidentiality and their consent sought before making any
publication.

Plan of work
Time\Activities Pre- Data Data Draft Final Sub-
parations collections analysis thesis thesis mission
(gather and read (interviews and ( analyse (writing thesis
literature, write observations in collected and sending
proposal, Sogakope, data using drafts to
contact relevant transcriptions) grounded supervisor for
informants) theory) comments)

February-June 2008 X

July-September 2008 X

October 2008 X X

November-December X X
2008

January-April 2009 X

May 2009 X X

NB: This is a temporary work plan. It may be subject to change.

Field Budget

1. Transportation (Oslo-Accra 8000 kr


Accra-Oslo)

2. Car rental (Sogakope) 3000 kr

3. Accommodation 3000 kr

4. Photocopying and printing 1000 kr

5. Communication (internet, phone etc) 1000 kr


Total 16000 kr

NB: Budget may be subject to change.

References:

Bryman, Alan (2004): ‘Social Research Methods’, 2nd edition, Oxford


University Press Inc., New York.

Pahl, Greg (2005): ‘Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy’, Chelsea


Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont, U.S.A.

International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC


Discussion Paper, 2006): ‘Biofuels: Promises and Constraints’
http://www.agritrade.org/Publications/DiscussionPapers/IPC_Biofuels_Pro
mises%20and%20Constraints.pdf
29/03/2008

Rajagopal, D (2008): ‘Implications of India’s biofuel policies for food,


water and the poor’, water policy 10 Supplement 1 (2008) 95-106, Energy
and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Renewable Energy UK
http://www.reuk.co.uk/What-is-Jatropha.htm
29/03/2008

The Volta Region


http://www.ghanaexpeditions.com/regions/region_detail.asp?id=5
15/04/2008

Jatropha Africa- Ghana


http://www.jatrophaafrica.com
18/04/2008

Sogakope
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogakope
18/04/2008

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