I know biofuels are terrible and will starve us, but check out this Newsweek article on Jatropha. When I was in the Peace Corps in Guinee-Bissau, we used this to grow living fences to keep the goats out of our gardens. It’s the growingest plant I’ve ever seen — whack off a branch from your neighbor’s hedge with a machete, stick it in the ground, and presto, it sprouts like a weed, no irrigation needed.

And — best part — the goddamn goats wouldn’t eat it. It is impossible to properly appreciate the significance of this until you try to start an orange grove in an African village.

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Traveling north to the bitter edge of the Sahel, you’d see whole villages circled with it, in a futile attempt to hold back the encroaching Sahara.

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It has medicinal purposes, too — if I remember right, women used it for birth control. Note: You might want to double-check that before trying.

I have no idea what the economics are, but where I lived everyone was looking for a secondary cash crop. If the money is right, I see no reason why Jatropha couldn’t and wouldn’t be grown on the margins to keep the family in dried fish and kola nuts.