MoU signed for pilot Pongomia farm project


Vayugrid Marketplace Services Private Limited Company is introducing to Ethiopia the Pongomia tree, an oil-producing tree originating in India, which it trademarked and marketed under the name “Vayusap.” The company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr. Mekonnen Hagos, President of Medco Bio Medical College, for a joint development and pilot production of the plant on November 14th 2012.
Ashok Sharma, Vayugrid Coordinator for Africa, said the agreement entails locating  and securing land for a pilot project by both parties, if or when a request for such a project is accepted by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), which will be used as a stepping stone for a much larger undertaking. “We plan to lease up to 200 hectares of land for the pilot project on which we will plant the pongomia trees for the production of ‘Vayusap’, with a view to increasing it to several thousand hectares in the future.” said Ashok, adding that they would prefer to lease land within  300 km radius of Addis Ababa.
He stated the agreement stipulates that the cost of the project and the ratio of the cost to be divided between the two sides depend on the type of land and the lease price that the piece of land will fetch. 
A piece of land in the West Hararge zone of Oromia, previously leased by an Indian company to plant Jatropha [plant used as bio fuel], has been of particular interest to the joint venture.
Ashok also added that MoA is considering the viability and suitability of their request for a pongomia farm, since so many Jatropha production ventures have gone bust, in Ethiopia.
Wondim Teklu, State minister of Water and Energy (MoWE), in an earlier presentation meeting in Ethiopia introducing “Vayusap,” had said the government is interested in companies that try to introduce such types of products but that, since it got other mega projects it is dealing with, it prefers to lease land to prospective investors instead of going into Joint Ventures.
Vayugrid Marketplace Services Plc. has been engaged in pongomia plantation projects in neighboring Djibouti, the gulf country of Kuwait and the US states of Arizona and Texas.
The company says its particular variety of pongomia plant is a high yield, genetically superior, resistant to a wide range of adverse weather conditions and tolerant of extremely poor soil types.
It also states that the plant is far less toxic to the soil as well as less costly than other plants with similar purpose and requires less labor. It is said to be suitable for mechanization and has greater stability and consistency in yield.