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In a bid to decrease its dependence on oil and produce environmentally-friendly energy, Senegal will cooperate with Brazil and India to launch a biofuel production programme by 2007.

Through public-private partnerships, Brazil will provide scientific and technological know-how, Indian entrepeneurs will supply the capital, and Senegal will offer land and labour.

Biofuels, such as bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas, are renewable fuels generally produced from agricultural crops or organic matter.

The project is part of a plan by the Senegalese government to regenerate its rural economy through investment in biofuels to eventually replace the country's daily consumption of 33,000 oil barrels.

It was announced on 27 October by Farba Senghor, Senegal's minister of agriculture, rural hydraulics and food security in a meeting with a delegation of Brazilian biofuel experts in Dakar, Senegal.

"The issues are enormous for our country, as biofuel will help us diversify our energy sources and reduce the increasing oil bill, while protecting the environment from pollution," Senghor said to AngolaPress.

"Senegal has considerable advantages to develop the biofuel sector, because the country presents good climatic and geological conditions necessary for the increase in plants used as raw materials for ethanol or diethyl ether production," José Neiva Santos, head of the Brazilian delegation, said.

In an initial pilot project to reduce Senegal's oil imports by 10 per cent, jatropha plants will be grown on 4,000 hectares of land in Touba.

The extracted oil will be transformed into biodiesel in production units to be set up in Khelcom, some 100 km from Dakar.

The pilot project also aims to provide a knowledge hub from which other plantations could develop, according to Biopact, an organisation working for cooperation in biofuel and bioenergy between Europe and Africa.

Senghor indicated that Senegal will carry out an experiment of growing castor oil plants, sunflowers or jatropha over an area of 50,000 hectares in Kolda and Tambacounda, in southern and eastern Senegal.

This will help determine costs and the optimal conditions for biofuel production — examining the best way to extract the oil, as well as finding out what crop produces better biofuel at minimum cost.

News of the biofuel investment programme, which is part of a government plan called 'retour vers l'agriculture' ('back to agriculture'), comes ahead of the green power energy conference BiofuelsMarketsAfrica scheduled for 30 November in Cape Town, South Africa.