Jatropha curcas is a drought resistant large shrub or small tree belonging to the genus of euphtorbiaceae, producing oil containing seed. Jatropha curcas is the commonest specie found in Nigeria, but many species exist in different parts of the world. Jatropha is a multipurpose drought resistant tree and can be cultivated in areas of low rainfall.
The seed is suitable for quick and efficient domestication compared with other Woody species names used to describe the plant vary per region or country but it is most commonly known as “physic nut”.
In Nigeria it is known as “binidazugu/cinidazugu” and “lapa-lapa” in Hausa and Yoruba language respectively. The varieties being used to establish plantation in Africa and Asia are inedible. Due to its toxicity, Jatropha curcas is not edible and it’s traditionally used for manufacturing soap and medicinal application but despite the toxicity of Jatropha curcas, edible varieties are known to exist in Mexico which are not currently being exploited.
According to a part 5 student of Chemical Engineering University of Maiduguri Mr Adamu Hassan Isah, who is currently undergoing research on Jatropha oil said; the Jatropha seed plant is mostly found in the Northern part of the Nigeria, particularly Borno State.
Generally, the population neglects the used of the seed as it is perceived as an unwanted plant in the area whilst the hedge serve as protection device against cattles. Even if the boom for Jatropha production is based mainly on the incentive of producing biofuel, the possible range of producing biofuel, the possible range of products which can be derived from Jatropha is much broader.
The fact that Jatropha oil cannot be used for nutritional purpose because it is harmful to human body make it very attractive as a source of fuel each part of Jatropha such as its leaf, flower,fruit, bark, root and the seed has its own uses and that has made the plant a multipurpose type.
Jatropha oil itself has so many uses as it is used in preventing Eczema, stop blood bleeding, process of making cleaning fluids, dye of clothes, organic fertilizer, Anti bacteria and antidote for snake bite as well as other medicinal purpose. It’s most common use is soap making, the Jatropha soap is used as a cure for various skin diseases such as Ringworms, eczema, irrelevant rashes, used for toilet /bathing.
Antimicrobial activity of Jatropha oil could be utilized for production of cheap surfactant for purpose of micellar catalysis.
Jatropha oil makes a soft, durable soap undereven the simplest of manufacturing process, it is also used as a soap stock including the manufacture of soft laundry soap. Soap made from Jatropha oil gives a very good foaming, white soap colour with positive effects on the skin partly due to the glycerine content of the soap. Jatropha soap is said to have medicinal characteristic and is therefore used by people with various skin disease and sensitivity to regular soap.
If an average Nigeria can venture into the business of Jatropha soap making which can be home made but top grade it can promote entrepreneurship and create job opportunities for Nigerians, improve environment and develop Socio-economic status of poor resources farmers in developing countries like Nigeria.
Elizabeth Jabu Yerima is a 300level student of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri