Global research body to promote bio-fuels in India

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Aug 31 | Updated: Sep 1 2007, 08:16am hrs
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has decided to promote bio-fuel revolution in India by empowering the poor.

ICRISAT, which one of the affiliated institutes of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), has developed hybrid sweet sorghum which can be used as an alternative bio-fuel crop as it has high oil content.

Speaking to FE, the ICRISAT director-general, William D Dar said that his organisation has also the responsibility of improving the conditions of dryland farmers of India as it is headquartered in a village close to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

"We have found out a simple solution to the ongoing debate on fuel versus food. We have developed hybrid sweet sorghum which has more oil content and has major environmental advantage over corn used as a bio-fuel crop in US. Sweet sorghum produces grains as well as sugar, so that the poor do not have to choose between food and fuel," said Dar.

According to Dar, ICRISAT has also formulated a concept paperBioPowerwhich calls for cultivation by small and marginal farmers on wastelands. BioPower means empowering the poor in the chain of bio-fuel production. The produces of the farmers would be marketed by distilleries for extraction of oil. Rusni Distilleries is providing farmers necessary inputs and marketing their produces.

Advocating that ICRISAT model for bio-fuel revolution should be adopted in the interests of small farmers, Dar said : "We work with the government inprojects that grant rights to the poor - right to plant and harvest trees on unused wastelands even though they do not own it." He said that ICRISAT was working on Jatropha Curcas and Pongamia Pinnata for growing them on wastelands.