Kenaf – The Environmental Entrepreneurship Powerhouse
By Dr Carolyn M Cross
Kenaf, Hibiscus Cannabinus L.is a warm season annual closely related to cotton (Gossypium Hirsutum L.) and okra (Abelmoschus Esculentus L.).
Kenaf can be used as a domestic supply of cordage fiber in the manufacture of rope, twine, carpet backing and burlap. Research, in the early 1940s, focused on the development of high-yielding anthracnose-resistant varieties, cultural practices and harvesting machinery.
During the 1950s, Kenaf was identified as a promising fiber source for paper pulp. Kenaf fibers have been processed into high quality newsprint and bond paper.
Although Kenaf is usually considered a fiber crop, research indicates that it has high protein content and, therefore, is a potential livestock feed. Crude protein in Kenaf leaves ranged from 21 to 34 percent, stalk crude protein ranged from 10 to 12 percent, and whole-plant crude protein ranged from 16 to 23 percent.
Kenaf can be ensilaged effectively, and it has satisfactory digestibility with a high percentage of digestible protein. Digestibility of dry matter and crude proteins in Kenaf feeds ranged from 53 to 58 percent, and 59 to 71 percent, respectively Kenaf meal, used as a supplement in a rice ration for sheep, compared favorably with a ration containing alfalfa meal.
In addition to the use of Kenaf for cordage, paper pulp and livestock feed researchers have investigated its use as poultry litter and animal bedding, bulking agent for sewage sludge composting and as a potting soil amendment. Additional products include automobile dashboards, carpet padding, corrugated medium, as a “substitute for fiberglass and other synthetic fibers,” building materials (particle boards of various densities, thicknesses, and fire and insect resistances), absorbents, textiles and as fibers in extraction molded plastics.
Kenaf is in the Hibiscus family, is cousin to Cotton and Okra, and is currently grown mainly in China and India for its high strength fibers. Nobody has focused on Kenaf for food because the leaves did not taste good. However, a unique strand known as Whitten Kenaf was developed by the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and released for general use in 2005. These leaves taste quite good, a sort of lemony, Cajun taste. This variety of Kenaf has wide cotton shaped leaves, can be used for food, has been grown for food in Haiti for 3 years where they love the taste and have developed their own recipes. The leaves, seeds, stalk and core are all separate harvests. The result is multiple uses and benefits.
The Kenaf plant is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, much faster than local weeds, so it requires minimal soil preparation and is easy to plant and maintain. Because the soil does not have to be tilled, maximum microorganism density is maintained and chemical fertilizers are not needed Kenaf is an extremely efficient plant that uses minimal resources, with exceptional output. Kenaf plants grow up to 20 feet tall. One acre can produce as much as 20 tons of biomass in 6 months.
Low Water Usage
The stalk and roots have the ability to store water like a camel, so the plant performs extremely well, even in arid/drought conditions where most other plants fail. When planted before rainy season, no follow-up watering is needed. This absolves the need for expensive irrigation and water rights issues.
Leaves Feed Humans
Whitten Kenaf leaves are delicious and high in protein, up to 34%. It is regularly eaten in Haiti in soups, salads, boiled like spinach or added to rice. Kenaf can be eaten within 10 days of planting, when just 18 inches tall, and the leaves and stems can be continually harvested from that point forward. Each planted seed has the potential of creating 80 servings of edible food. Therefore, it can be used as a high protein starvation aversion crop. In fact, 2,000 people in Mirebalais, Haiti used Kenaf to keep from starving in 2009.
In Haiti, several Kenaf leaf recipes have been developed. Seeds Feed Humans can be ground into wonderful gluten-free flour for baking. In Mirebalais, Haiti they use Kenaf flour for several recipes. 1/2 pound of Kenaf flour can make 20 to 30 pan sized breakfast pancakes.
There is a long tradition of using Kenaf for food in India to produce Gongura. There are many recipes and photos of foods based on gongura on the internet.
Kenaf seeds are sold by the pound, which consists of about 20,000 seeds. 1 pound of Kenaf seed currently costs $4.00 USD. In poor soil conditions, 1 Kenaf plant produces about 200 seeds. 10 acres of poor soil can grow 10,000 lbs of Kenaf seed per growing season, representing $40,000 USD of income. Florida research farmer Harry Long, in cooperation Mr. Loftus, came up with an organic formula where they yielded 11,382 seeds per plant!! It takes about 1 year from planting time before local farmers can harvest and sell the seeds as a money crop. They can sell the stalks as firewood at that time, too.
Leaves can be dried and turned into different sized pellets as high protein feed for rabbits, fish, chickens, and goats. Rabbit meat is really wonderful for you, being lower in fats and cholesterol and higher in protein than beef. Commercial grade rabbit farming and fish farming (tilapia) can be sustained with Kenaf pellets. (The US currently imports $750M of tilapia per year from China.)
A backyard farming method is also being perfected for small-scale production of rabbits, fish, chickens, and goats, on small plots of land using homegrown Kenaf pellets, virtually eliminating feed costs. This provides meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products for family consumption and for sale/export. This could be a self- sustaining source of food and income for the poorest of the poor. They can make $25 per week growing and picking their own Kenaf for animal feed, starting within 2 months of planting the seed. This doesn’t even take into consideration the income they can receive from selling their livestock.
Cooking Fuel: The Kenaf stalk has a heat value comparable to burning pine. A low cost, safe, smokeless Kenaf Stove has been designed for high efficiency cooking and bio-char (a form of charcoal) production. The Kenaf Stove burns Kenaf or wood in an oxygen deprived environment, resulting in a much cleaner, no smoke fire where the fuel lasts MUCH longer. 4 families can have a year’s supply of fuel from a football field size of planted Kenaf. When the air supply to the stove is shut off, bio-char is created. Making bio-char from Kenaf and putting it into the soil as a soil amendment replenishes the soil and functions as a fertilizer and a soil stabilizer.
This recapturing of waste lands can halt deforestation and desertification as people use Kenaf instead of collecting wood for cooking. Any bio-char not used as fertilizer can be molded into charcoal briquettes. The Kenaf Stove can also use grass, waste paper, etc. to make bio-char which is then made into charcoal briquettes. Families can then sell the charcoal for income.
One acre of Kenaf can sequester 8 times as much carbon as an acre of evergreen trees. One acre of Kenaf absorbs approximately 10 to 20 tons of Carbon during photosynthesis. When used as cooking fuel on the Kenaf Stove, an additional 5 tons of bio-char is made. When put into the earth, this bio-char permanently stores the carbon in a beneficial way, in the ground.
Kenaf is carbon negative, when you put the bio-char into the soil. If we can change from coal to Kenaf for making power, we can sequester enough CO2 per year to completely solve the anthropogenic effect on climate change, impacting global warming
Inventor C. Morrison has developed a biomass power plant that can use Kenaf biomass to create a hydrogen/carbon monoxide gas called syngas. These gasses are sufficient to run an electrical generator. One power plant can service an entire rural village. The biomass yield for an acre of Kenaf is 3 to 4 times higher than for trees. 50 acres of Kenaf can fuel 1 power plant, perpetually.
This system is self-contained and poses no air quality, water quality, soil degradation, odor, or noise issues. There are no unique construction or installation requirements. It is as simple to operate as any household appliance and is small enough to fit on a trailer (see picture) or be mounted in a small building. The electricity not used by the rural village can be sold to the electrical power grid as an additional source of income. Imagine a constant supply of electricity being supplied to urban centers by rural villages, this in nations plagued by regular brownouts and blackouts. The only by-product from gasification is a sellable bio-char ash that can be used as a soil amendment for growers.
An inexpensive organic fertilizer that can be made locally, using bio-char, is being developed. Bio-char acts as a home for microbial activity. This can be used to enhance soil quality even in the poorest of soils, without using dangerous and expensive chemical fertilizers Bio-char as a fertilizer has been known to double plant growth. This will increase the yields and profitability per square meter of the Kenaf plants and other fruits and vegetables grown in subsequent years. This will lead to a virtuous cycle of increasing economic prosperity from year to year, using land resources currently viewed as unproductive.
Kenaf bio-char can even be used in treating human bodily waste to convert the nitrogen into productive forms, turning a waste product into a resource. This would improve sanitary conditions and would have been useful during the recent Cholera outbreak in Haiti. 5-gallon buckets can be used as toilets and when combined with biochar, within 6 months the poo and urine can be safely used as fertilizer. If 2 billion people were to use these toilets, then 2 billion pounds of fertilizer would be generated every day. Over time we could even recapture the deserts.
Textiles The bast (thin outer bark) of the Kenaf plant is a high strength fiber used to make burlap bags, plastics, industrial and commercial fabrics, cordage, rope and twine.
Kenaf paper has superior fiber content compared to wood-based paper products, and it takes far less time to grow Kenaf compared to trees.
The fibrous outer core of plant stems can be used to make composites, polymers, binders, biodegradable plastic, injection molded panels, engineered wood panels, substitute for carbon, glass, other mineral fibers, fibrous reinforcement of plaster, cement, and wall boards. Construction The Styrofoam-like inner core of the Kenaf plant can be used for animal bedding, kitty litter, municipal wastewater treatment, and for oil spill cleanup on land or at sea. In conjunction with recycled wood and recycled concrete, the Kenaf core can also be used to make a light weight yet very strong cement block that has great insulation properties and is virtually fireproof. These blocks can be used to build single family homes and multi-story buildings, without using power tools.
A self-sustaining environmental home has been designed using Kenaf and other technologies, at a cost between $5,000 and $10,000 (depending on conditions, sewage and electrical requirements and sizes) per house. These homes will provide for clean water, housing, electricity, and sanitation. Intended as a developing nation starter home, construction is so simple that kids can assemble a house in 1 day< and a family can easily add-on additional rooms and rent them out as a source of extra income. This makes it possible for single mothers to become financially independent without having to work outside the home. The societal implications of this are staggering
This is a side effect from effectively leveraging Kenaf as a way to provide food, shelter, and a living wage, in a rural setting. People living in the city slums can move back to their rural origins and actually provide for themselves, sustainably. The Whitten variety of Hibiscus Cannabinus L. is a good tasting Kenaf that has the potential to serve as a food source in many countries.
Kenaf is a plant that has the potential to change the world. It is a very old plant used by mankind. Throughout the Bible you read about sackcloth. Sackcloth is made from Kenaf. Only royalty was allowed to wear linen or cotton. The poor grew Kenaf, spun it and made their clothes from Kenaf. They made ropes and cordage from Kenaf.
Many people want to help the environment. Many people are trying to find ways to lower the greenhouse gases that are heating up our world. We worry about the Arctic ice melting and the loss of the polar bear. We are all concerned with the more and more violent weather patterns, the floods, earthquakes and volcanoes erupting. We don’t want to see sea levels rise and inundate our coastal cities. But what can one person do?
Some people have gotten involved with tree planting projects. Tree planting projects are great. They sequester quite a lot of carbon. The problem is, the people who are involved are operating in what I call an incomplete transaction. The people who have tree planting projects get the resources they need and you get the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something good but there is no return for you donation.
What if there was a way to do something really good for the environment, something that sequesters more carbon than trees…and at the same time it offers you a payback? Yes, that’s what I mean: A return on your investment. Sequester carbon, help the environment and earn money at the same time? There is a plant called Kenaf that sequesters more carbon than any other species on the Earth. One acre of Kenaf sequesters as much carbon as 8 acres of fast-growing pine trees.
Kenaf Could Change the World If We All Got Involved In Planting It And Using It. Here’s What Kenaf Can Do:
1. Sequester More Carbon Per Acre Than Any Other Plant
2. Be Food For Humans Anywhere In The World Where There Is Hunger
3. Make Excellent Feed For Livestock including Backyard Fish Ponds
4. The Stalks Can Be Used As Firewood
5. Make Biochar For Fertilizing The Earth Organically
6. Make Beautiful Cloth That Can Be Used For Clothing And Industrial Use
7. Make Biocomposites That Can Be Used For Car Interiors
8. Be Used To Generate Electricity
9. Make A Better Quality Paper Than Pine Trees And Be Ready For Use In 6 Months Instead Of Years
10. Have Seeds That Can Be Made Into Gluten Free Flour
11. Have Seeds That Can Be Made Into A Cosmetic Oil
12. Have Leaves That Make Excellent Potherbs
13. Can Be Cut Back Many Times And When It Regrows It Produces More Food Or Feed
14. Grows Faster Than Just About Any Plant
15. Does Not Use A Lot Of Water – It Grows In Somalia
16. Bio-Char Made From Kenaf Can Treat Human Wastes And Turn It Into Fertilizer
17. The Inner Core Is Excellent For Animal Bedding Without Dust
18. Many Kinds Of Building Materials Can Be Made From The Bast Fiber
19. The Inner Core Fiber Can Be Made Into A Filler For A Lightweight Cement Block
20. Extracted Kenaf seed oil can be used as a bio-fuel for Diesel engines
This plant could feed people in poor countries. This plant could sequester more carbon everywhere in the world. This plant could provide biological fertilizers. And the plant has so many uses.
We need to build an organization made up of people who want to see less hunger, more firewood, inexpensive homes for poor people in developing countries. The people we seek to connect with are probably doing something green in their lives. They would just like to find a way to make it profitable while being more Green. In other words, having a complete transaction.
There is a need to find people dedicated to planting Kenaf and has already developed marketing vehicles for the Kenaf fiber and other products. We are actively researching vegetable dyes, making Kenaf fabric water repellent with environmentally sound materials. We have plans to make backpacks, tote bags, and household items from Kenaf. And we are already getting ready to develop our own Kenaf handmade paper project in Belize.
We invite you to invest in your Kenaf planting as a member of our community.
Kenaf is the environmental entrepreneurship powerhouse with multiple profit centers for you. It is not a graduate course in a university. It is a down to earth program.
The climate change is getting worse. But we now have a means to take control of our environmental problems and do something to ameliorate them.
We on this planet are in a battle for our survival as a species.From time to time on this very active planet we have extinction level events (ELE). Most of them are the results of acts of nature. But we are creating our own extinction level event (ELE). When the death rock fell from the sky and wiped out the dinosaurs, they had no warning. They didn’t know what hit them. But our extinction level is happening slowly enough that we can take action. We are sentient, we have our minds and our hands. We can take command of what is happening on our world. What can I do you say? We say, “Plant Kenaf.”
We can plant Kenaf or invest in someone else planting it. We can stop global warming.
We can create businesses to make money for you and other investors while you help remove carbon from the atmosphere. We can all actively participate in the real war.
THE WAR TO REGENERATE OUR WORLD.
It’s time to get our planet back to normal levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One acre of Kenaf sequesters as much carbon dioxifast-growings of fast growing pine trees.
YOU CAN EVEN DO THIS: Planting a small Kenaf plot in your garden can help take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and contribute to the battle against global warming. You could use the leaves for high protein greens, and chickens love it, too. Use the seeds for gluten-free flour, and the stalks for dust-free bedding for animals.
Planting one manzana of Kenaf in a tropical country, as an investor or as a farmer, could net you thousands of dollars in monetary return, and sequester tons of carbon dioxide, providing you an environmental return.
Kenaf was used for rope and for making sackcloth 6,000 years ago. Its new uses include biocomposites being manufactured for Toyota which plans to make all its car interiors with Kenaf.
Kenaf combined with recycled plastic makes an excellent building material as well as raw material for industrial use.
And, at the same time with it high protein content, it can feed the hungry of the world, people and animals. Kenaf can replace tree cutting as it makes tree free paper, can be used for people food as a potherb or gluten free flour, livestock feed, paper, biochar, carbon sequestration, fabric and bio-composites
This ecofriendly plant has the potential to create a successful green business for you. Grow Kenaf in your backyard or in a large plantation.