Government schools ordered to plant jatropha

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Independent Mon News Agency (IMNA) 11 June 2008

By Mi Kyae Goe

Government schools have been ordered by Burmese military junta supreme Snr. Gen. Than Shwe to grow jatropha curcas and two other plants for raising school funds.

The schools were ordered to plant areca palm, pepper, and jatropha curcas (castor oil plants). The schools need to plant 50 areca palms, 1,000 pepper, and 1,000 castor oil plants in the high school. Their numbers will be about 200 for each pepper and jatropha at primary school. In middle schools, the amount was 500 for pepper and jatropha respectively.

A principal of a high school said, "Than Shwe wants us to generate income by cultivating plants. But our budget will not permit it because the schools have to buy the plants from the Myanmar Agriculture Service (MAS) in the Township."

A principal in Mon said "Most schools have to pay about 100 Kyat per castor oil plant. Our school bought it at the beginning of the project. But this year, I don't want to waste money because our school never received benefits from it."

So some schools collected castor oil seeds and found branches of pepper and areca plants to sow in schools.

The schools could not meet the demand of the authorities because of heavy rains and the dry summer season during school vacations.

The Burmese regime had targetted to plant jatropha curcas on 8 million acres in the country in three years, according to a report of the Ethnic Community Development Forum (ECDF) including in Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states.

According to the report of the ECDF, the marketing of jatropha curcas was uncertain even for the SPDC. The farmers did not know the price and whom they should sell it to.

The ECDF reported that the State Peace and development Council would take action against each military region command in Burma if the command did not implement the jatropha curcas project of about 500,000 plants in the region.

Every school was ordered to submit progress reports every month about jatropha curcas to the Education Department. The middle schools have planted about 500 pepper and jatropha. The primary schools planted 200 each respectively. The areca palm project was started last year and the pepper project began in 2000.

The authorities forced not only schools but also villages to plant alongside the road and anyplace in the village.

Military officers in the region also ordered planting of jatropho curcas along the highway and the main road to show VIPs.

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