Eco Balance Embarks on Castor Seed Valorisation

Ecological Balance has embarked on the valorization of Castor (Ricinus communis), an indigenous plant located in the southeastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, India and the tropical regions, and well known to pharmaceuticals for its oil. An in-house training aimed at empowering the Organization’s team for an upcoming session that will train 10 women on the extraction of oils from seeds and 10 others on the transformation of these oils to cosmetic products was organized June 1, 2021 in this regard.

Carried out within the framework of the Irvingia project, castor seeds are readily available, with great cosmetic & cultural uses. “Castor oil is the best and most powerful laxative we know. It has been used from time immemorial to treat constipation and food poisoning. It is so powerful a laxative that some belief it can purge twins of all witchcraft powers” Mr. Epie Hans, a traditional medical practitioner explains.  “It also promotes the healing of stubborn wounds” the trade-practitioner adds. A claim, which aligns with medical research findings as Venelex (mixture of castor oil and Peru balsam) is a popular ointment used in clinical settings to treat wounds.

According to Mrs. Che Claudin, an elderly citizen, castor oil is very good in the treatment of burns, acne (blackheads and pimples) and keeps the hair and scalp healthy. “In our days, it was a very popular beauty product especially for the face and hair. And in my opinion, it was more effective in smoothing the skin, keeping it fresh than all the products I see people use today. We used it to treat dandruff easily as it made hair soft and kept the scalp clean,” she narrated.

The castor plant is also used in landscaping. This is because as it can survive a wide range of environments. Castor plants grow to about 1.5 to 2.5metres (4.9 to 8 feet) in a single season with its giant fanlike leaves producing seeds throughout the year. Its ability to survive a wide range of habitats come from the fact that it reproduces with a mixed pollination system which favors self-pollination (by geitonogamy) but at the same time can be cross pollinated by wind or insects. The seeds are made up of 40% – 60% oils that are rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein but also a water-soluble toxin.

Historically, Castor oil has been used as an effective motor lubricant for internal combustion engines since World War I. It is used in some racing cars and some model airplanes. Global castor seed production is around two million tons per year.

Hendreta Konjieh

Tree propagation; ‘Cheating’ Trees, Saving Forests

Farmers in the Mambonko village in South West Cameroon have been encouraged to use mostly grafted and marcotted trees in their farmlands as it allows trees with poor rooting systems and good quality fruits to be combined with those of the same species that have good rooting systems for better yields.

Grafted bush mango tree

 

With grafting, you cut a tree from the middle area and replaces it with another upper part and then nurture. In the course of time, the two parts will attach nicely and begin communication. They must, however, have the same genes.  Marcotting on the other hand, ‘cheats’ trees by taking advantage of their memory cells. The branch of a two-year-old tree, for instance, is cut, rooting ignited at one end and then planted. The plant takes some time to adapt to this new condition (acclimatization) and then continues growing like a two-year-old. As such. many plants can be generated from one tree. This method reduces the fruiting time of trees by up to half depending on the age of the marcotted mother tree.

Marcotted Dacryodes edulis (African plums)

“The most sustainable promise for agroforestry, forest gardening or any profitable tree planting endeavour is tree propagation.  People need some form of incentive. It is not easy to plant trees that take up to 10 years to start producing fruits. Humans are not that patient,” said  Mr.  Shu Jerome as he distributed marcotted forest and fruit trees for planting into the Irvingia forest garden in Mambonko village in Cameroon.

The forest garden is composed of crops (maize, various vegetables, cassava, potatoes, plantain), forest trees (bush mango, njangsang), fruits trees (African plum, oranges, avocado and mango)  and animals (goats, pigs and fowls). The crops are planted  10m2  from each other and trees in order to minimize shading.

Animals, on the other hand, walk around the farm freely and their dung serves as manure. This farm will enable Ecological Balance train 25 women every 6months on how to incorporate indigenous trees into existing farmlands.

The rationale of this forest gardening practice is to combine crops, trees, and animals of different fruiting cycles, hence, enabling women to harvest all year round. This reduces their vulnerability to market prices as surpluses can be sold offseason. Forest garden also reduces dependence on forest for timber and other forest products, while also ensuring land optimization.

By Ndimuh B. Shancho