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2011: Palm Produce Can Save Our Economy/Shola Adebowale

At a first glance, the picture before us looked like a fabric design, but in actual fact, it is an oil palm plantation in the Island of Borneo of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Few years back, Malaysia got its tenera oil palms from a prodigal Nigeria. Today Malaysia is the world’s biggest palm oil-producing country, accounting for about half of the world production. This was as a result of Malaysia’s research and development (R&D) program in oil palm breeding, by its Department of Agriculture’s exchange program with Nigeria in the 1960s.Here is a nation that can see into the future. Less a decade after, Malaysia established a special university, known as the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) to train agricultural and agro-industrial engineers and agro-business graduates to conduct further research and training in oil palm production in the 1970s.

The major driving force, behind the government’s oil palm dream, is the use of oil palm production as a major tool to create employment and invariably reduce poverty.

By 1995, Malaysia had became the world’s undisputed largest producer with 51% of world production.Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing at an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. Today, the government is diversifying from agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. While, tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of income from foreign exchange.

Palm oil can be used for manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, soap and chemicals, face and body lotion, shaving gels, shampoo, conditioner and hair spray, washing powder/detergents ,toothpaste, waxes, lubricants, and ink, paper pulp, dyes, lamp shades, particleboard, polishes, textile finishes, hammocks, cigarette papers and upholstery stuffing. Also, candles, lubricating greases for machinery, grease for bread molds and bread making equipment, grease used to protect tanks, pipelines and drilling mud for the petroleum industry. After plantations are cleared out, the trunks of old palms can be used to make furniture.

As could easily be seen and deduced from above, any nation, under the shackles of poverty and crushing debt burdens due to low capacity of industrialization and judicious engagement of its citizenry in productive capability, oil palm related industries offers a very viable vehicle of transformation.

As early as the beginning of the 20th century, it has been discovered that palm oil can be used as biofuel. Most especially, when Rudolf Diesel was noted to have used vegetable oil as fuel for his car, from which the motor engine subsequently took its name. Years later, palm oil was successfully developed as a biofuel for cars. Presently, palm oil is used in some types of biodiesel.

Biodiesel is an alternative to fossil-based fuels, it is produced from vegetable oils, and used as a fuel for vehicles, and it is becoming more popular..Palm oil can as well be burned in order to produce electricity at power plants. And, generally it is being developed and used to make a sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel for automobiles and machines.

Colombia has pledged to produce biodiesel using palm oil mixed with diesel. This will eventually play an important role in providing energy fuels which can power thousands of cars and machines with motor engines across Colombia . Using palm oil as a biodiesel brings benefits and is environmentally friendly. It also generates employment and contributes to the demand for renewable energy sources.

While, Malaysian government is refocusing its palm oil industry towards biodiesel to meet growing demand from European countries and it has encouraged the building of several biodiesel plants. Simultaneously, pushing through legislation to enforce a mandatory switch from diesel to biofuels. And hence, from 2007 till date,all diesel sold in Malaysia is made up of 5pc palm oil .

As technology develops at d speed of light and the fulcrum of industrialization like fossil fuel (petroleum) is fast becoming more and more synonymous with conflicts,like in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Angola,Sudan etc, palm oil is now seen as a low-carbon alternative and substitute to petroleum-based transport fuels. In other words, palm oil is gaining popularity as a cheap and effective solution to the world’s fuel crisis and a viable, cheaper way of reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

When, Ca’da Mosto, a Portuguese explorer in the 15th Century once tasted palm oil in Africa, he wrote: “It smells of violets, tastes like olives and has a colour that blends foods together like saffron, but even all this can’t sufficiently describe its special qualities”. Palm oil to the Asians is regarded as ‘gold oil’, while among the Yoruba of West Africa, like the testimony of Ca’da Mosto-‘ it is the tree of life ‘

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose government moved in the spirit of the founding fathers of Malaysia, by giving to Africa –the first TV/Radio station in Africa, the first Sky Scrapper in Africa, one of the earliest and premier stadiums in Africa and a generational giants of educated folks in Africa ..All through proceeds from AGRICULTURE.

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