Project Jatropha

Promoting Environmental Stewardship Among Young People: A 2009 PEYA Winner’s Story

By Apoorva Rangan

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has evolved into a problem on a scale that no nation can afford to fight alone. There are over 190 countries. Their boundaries may be fixed, but their people breathe the same air. No matter which country contributes the most or the least to the carbon dioxide burden, all nations suffer together.

During a time when there are major differences between developed and developing nations as how to mitigate climate change, my brother and I launched Project Jatropha, an international collaboration aimed towards alleviating rural poverty and environmental destruction by promoting the biofuel shrub Jatropha curcas.

Project Jatropha provides poor farmers in southern India with enhanced technical assistance in the utility and productivity of biofuels in ways that are environmentally sustainable and economically rewarding. Additionally, this project provides a successful medium in which young people across the globe can collaborate on the implementation of sound initiatives that provide environmental and monetary benefits to impoverished farmers in need.

In 2009, Project Jatropha was awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). The PEYA program recognizes youth who promote environmentally-conscious awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages community involvement in sustainability efforts.

Each year, one outstanding project from each of EPA’s ten regional offices is selected for national recognition. The new projects awarded continue to be impressive. To be one of the lucky recipients of this award is truly one of my biggest accomplishments as an environmentalist. This honor has given Project Jatropha invaluable visibility and exposure. More importantly, the recognition from this award has helped raise awareness about how community action is key to creating essential strategies the benefit our global community and environment.

Since receiving the award, Project Jatropha has launched a variety of sister projects focused on environmental education, solar energy programs and kitchen gardens. My experience as an environmentalist has shown me that climate change is a problem on the scale that no entity can afford to fight alone. Because collective efforts can make a difference, the environmental education and stewardship of young people is undeniably crucial in the fight to combat global warming.

About the author: Apoorva Rangan is studying Science and Management with a biotechnology sequence at Claremont-McKenna College in California. She is currently interning at the Office of Public Engagement.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Project Jatropha

Carbon dioxide emissions are local, but their effects are global. We are one hundred and ninety four countries on this globe; our boundaries are fixed, but the air that we breathe is shared. No matter who contributes how much to the CO2 burden, all nations suffer together. The USA, China and India are the largest producers of CO2 in the world. During a time when there are differences between developed and developing nations on how to mitigate climate change, Project Jatropha aims to demonstrate the commitment and action of the youth in developed countries to environmental issues that affect the developing nations as well.

Our vision is to promote Jatropha curcas as an ecologically friendly and economically sustainable source of biofuel initially in rural India and eventually in many countries. Near our project site, poor farmers cultivate tobacco as a cash crop in order to support their families. This has forced them to cut down the local trees and forests, jeopardizing the fauna. Jatropha biofuel has a ready, large global market, as it has negligible emissions and a small carbon footprint. Our project starts at the grassroots level with an international collaboration with Parivarthana, an NGO that helps farmers, and Labland Biotechs, a plant biotechnology company. The beneficiaries are farmers. We distributed 13,000 quality Jatropha seedlings to 50 farmer families from two villages. We have demonstrated the extraction of biofuel from Jatropha seeds, distributed the oil among farmers, and successfully run their irrigation pumps with it. Several farmers have been trained in the agronomics of Jatropha at Labland Biotechs facility.

We have successfully collaborated with high schools in rural India and California to spread the awareness of climate change. Though this project was launched in India, we hope that it will spearhead a movement that will eventually mitigate climate change from CO2 emission, decrease the dependence on fossil fuels and global poverty.

It feels wonderful to have the recognition by the preeminent agency entrusted with guarding our environment. PEYA award has given our project a invaluable visibility and exposure . This will create awareness about the fact that community action is the key to bringing about changes in the way we care for our environs.

About the author: Adarsha Shivakumar is a high school student from Oakland, CA. Along with two other high school students, he recently received a Presidents Environmental Youth Award for Project Jatropha.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.