(Environmental Protection Agency) President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) Winner: Adarsha Shivakumar, Apoorva Rangan, and Callie Roberts Pleasant Hill and Martinez, California - The Project Jatropha Team promotes the cultivation of Jatropha curcas, a perennial shrub with oil-rich seeds, as an ecologically friendly and economically sustainable source of alternative fuel production. To date, the work of Project Jatropha has supported the planting of 13,000 seedlings by more than 50 farm families in Southern India.
Adarsha and Apoorva got the idea for this project while visiting their grandfather’s farm in Karnataka’s Hunsur County, India. There, they became aware that poor farmers need an alternative to cultivating tobacco for income because tobacco production in rural India requires ongoing wood fires to cure the leaves which contributes to greenhouse gases and deforestation. To address the problem, they conducted research and learned that the biofuel produced from the Jatropha seeds provides an alternative source of energy. The biofuel can power diesel engines, vehicles and equipment like irrigation pumps, and produces cleaner exhaust emissions than traditional fuels. Mature Jatropha curcas shrubs efficiently absorb carbon dioxide, which provides an additional environmental benefit. The shrub can grow with fewer agronomic inputs than other crops and it is recognized for its abilities to rejuvenate infertile soil and to prevent erosion. In turn, farmers benefit from the income generated by the new crop, without sacrificing land used to produce food crops.
In 2008, Adarsha and Apoorva, along with Callie Roberts, founded Project Jatropha to supply Jatropha seedlings to farmers in India. They manage the project by visiting India during summer and winter breaks from school and by telephone from the U.S. during the year. Participants in the project are provided training in agronomics for the new crop and financial relief while the plants mature. Upon harvest, the project purchases the seeds back from farmers at market price.
With the aid of a non-governmental organization and a plant biotechnology company in India, the team conducted outreach activities for individual farmers and women’s self-help groups in Hunsur County. Local residents in Hunsur County were educated about Project Jatropha through town-hall meetings, a presentation at Rotary International, and a press conference in the City of Mysore. In the U.S., Project Jatropha team members collaborated with high school and middle school student leaders, teachers, environmentalists, nonprofit organizations, and city council members. To spread awareness of climate change and sustainable fuel, Adarsha, Apoorva, and Callie gave numerous presentations in the San Francisco Bay Area, wrote articles for magazines, blogs and newspapers, and conducted interviews with local television and other media. Project Jatropha also established a partnership in the U.S. with Sirona Cares Foundation, a sustainable fuel and living project.
The goals of the project are to decrease the dependence of developing countries on fossil fuels, to mitigate global climate change, and to alleviate poverty for rural farmers around the world. The project was implemented successfully because the three members of Project Jatropha believed one simple thing: “Have an idea? Just go do it,” says Adarsha. READ MORE