Penn State: Kenya smallholders willing to up croton nut output for biofuels

Large-nut croton (Croton megalocarpus) photographed in Nanyuki, Kenya. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Christiaan Kooyman.
Large-nut croton (Croton megalocarpus) photographed in Nanyuki, Kenya. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Christiaan Kooyman.

The abundance of croton trees in Kenya and the nuts’ potential use in biofuels present promising opportunity for local farmers.

An article from the College of Agricultural science, published in Forest Policy and Economics, found that croton trees are readily available to most farmers. However, seed price and tree maturity periods were a concern for some.

Although their resources are limited, farmers are interested by the possibility of accessing an additional revenue stream. "Many small farmers, although land constrained, have access to land to plant groves of croton trees if they become sold on the idea," said co-author Michael Jacobson in a press release. "If they knew that there was going to be a dedicated market for croton, they would certainly add trees to their farm household lands."

The World Argoforestry Centre previously conducted research into the sustainability of croton nut cultivation, which indicated that croton trees are a viable crop for land owners while having no environmental impact. From this, the Centre invited Jacobson to expand on their findings to see if smallholders could play a part in the scaling-up of the industry.

The low cost of fossil fuels has hampered the development of croton production so far. Jacobson worked with biofuels company Eco Fuels Kenya to identify optimum growing conditions and management for the nut and the potential use of by-products.

Large-nut croton (Croton megalocarpus) photographed in Nanyuki, Kenya. Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Christiaan Kooyman.