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Sugar Palms for Biofuel and Ongoing Community Benefit

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 18th, 2012


(L) Masarang’s ‘Village Hub’: a modular processing plant for sugar palm fuel.

Climate Spectator have posted a great article from china dialogue about the work of Willie Smits on the potential of sugar palms for the biofuel industry.  The growing environment of the sugar palm means that its cultivation can provide regular local work and that production can stay in the control of small co-operatives.  The sugar palm is a highly regarded plant in Indonesia and other areas of South-East Asia, with multiple benefits during its growing cycle and after harvest:

“We met in Hong Kong, where Smits had been talking to potential investors. He opened up his laptop to run one of many PowerPoint presentations that chart a 30-year voyage of discovery. When he married his Indonesian wife in 1980, Smits was surprised to learn that the expected dowry in North Sulawesi was six sugar palms. “I wondered why,” he told chinadialogue, “and I discovered that just six sugar palms could support a young family.”

After years of research, Smits today is a sugar palm evangelist, eager to list the tree’s virtues. “It doesn’t need pesticides or fertiliser, and once it starts producing, it has to be tapped twice a day, which gives employment to local people,” he explained, “so it creates 20 times more permanent jobs per hectare than oil palm. It is highly efficient in converting sunlight to energy and, because it cannot thrive in monoculture, it preserves biodiversity. It has very deep roots, so it never dries out, and it improves the soil by bringing nutrients up. It stores carbon very deep, and it only needs half the water of similar trees because of its waxy leaves. And, it produces 60 useful products, including a wood that is harder than oak.”

As if that were not enough, he continued, it survives fire and volcanic eruption, flood and salt water, can prevent landslides by stabilising slopes, and improves conditions for agriculture downstream. Perhaps most importantly for the global climate: one tree can produce enough ethanol each day to keep a car running year round.”

Read the full article by Isabel Hilton to find out more and check out Willie Smits’ website.


Going local – Supporting sustainable, resilient businesses and communities

Posted in Events by Ferne Edwards on June 3rd, 2009

Michael Shuman workshop



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