Mwakilasa: Man who dreams biodiesel fuel Mzee Rashid Kawawa with Mwakilasa(centre) during the launch of the book on Mwalimu Nyerere. By Elizabeth Tungaraza He is a man working hard to promote biodiesel as an alternative for fossil fuels, increasingly blamed throughout the world for causing climate change. Michael Mwakilasa picked interest about bodiesel from a friend, Anthony Park while in the United States where he lived and worked for more than 10 years. Mwakilasa, who is married with two sons, last year founded Mafuta Sasa Biodiesel Ltd, which is headquartred in Dar es Salaam. Anthony Park is a co-director in the company. He says their accompany has set up a mini-refinery that has so far produced 330 litres on test runs. Biodiesel is extracted from fresh or waste vegetable oils. It's an environmentally safe, low pollution fuel for most internal combustion and turbine diesel engines. They plan to use mainly oil produced from the 'Jatropha Caucas' plant, known in Kiswahili as 'Mbono Kaburi,' which he says is good opportunity for another cash crop that won�t compete with food crops for both financial and land resources. Jatropha Caucas, he says, grows in marginal lands, rarely used for growing other food and cash crops. It also thrives in areas with low rainfall totals, which could be another good economic opportunity for semi-arid regions, he adds. "I decided to return in response to the call by President Jakaya Kikwete to Tanzanians in the Diaspora to come back and invest in our national economy," he says. Jatropha Caucas grows well in areas with rainfall ranging from "250 mm to 2350mm. His company would provide farmers with quality seeds, he says. "I have seen people live by Jatropha Caucas farming in developed countries, and I can bet it shall be the same way in Tanzania when farmers start cultivating the plant," says the soft-spoken man. But Mwakilasa says biodiesel can also be extracted from discarded cooking oil, especially from large-scale operations like hotels and the fish market in Magogoni in the city. Producing biodiesel has very good potential to provide employment and create jobs in rural areas. He envisages a day when biodiesel will replace fossil fuels in schools and hospitals. Farms near schools could also be part of income generating projects. Thus, he says, biodiesel creates the opportunity to earn money as a person or institution also buys fuel. That is different, he says, from the situation whereby buying fuel is one hundred per cent expenditure. Mwakilasa basically picked up his practical business skills as a salesman in the US for goods and items promoted by super stars such as Janet Jackson, Usher, N'sync, P' Diddy, Backstreet boys and many others during musical tours. The job made him visit almost every state in the US. He had entered the land of dreams from Canada where he also lived for four years. Mwakilasa constantly came back home. In 2,000, a year after Mwalimu Julius Nyerere died, Mwakilasa wrote a book entitled: "Tutakukumbuka Milele Baba wa Taifa,"Kisahili for "We Shall Remember You Forever Father of the Nation." It was launched by Mr Rashid Kawawa, the man who became prime minister of independent Tanganyika when `mwalimu resigned the post to and strengthen the party in preparation for the republican status. The book did not earn him money. He went back to the US and worked for two years at a legal firm. HOW TO MAKE BIODIESEL After crude oil is collected, it is then heated to a certain temperature. Sodium Hydroxide and methanol are added and is left to cool for three hours. The process also involves removing glycerin, which is used for manufacturing soap. Mwakilasa says he will be manufacturing very good laundry soap capable of removing greasy stains also from clothes. After glycerin is removed, the oil is refined to produce biodiesel, which can be used in any diesel engine as a standalone fuel or in a mixture with fossil fuels. Making fuel from vegetable oil can be easy, cost effective and environmentally beneficial. What makes this fuel even more attractive is that one can make it from the waste vegetable oil produced in the given area. With a bit of know-how and persistence, one can run any diesel engine on vegetable oil. Biodiesel is not like vegetable oil alternative fuels. Biodiesel can be used in its unaltered form in diesel engines. Vegetable oil fuels must be modified and used only in combustion-ignition engines. This makes biodiesel one of the easiest alternative fuels to use. In fact, it is a great option for use on farms in farm equipment. Mwakilasa says people should stop blaming the government but work hard instead. The government should only create an enabling environment for people to realize their full potential. He thanks the government for the cooperation and support extended to him for his venture. "The ministry of energy and minerals supports me a lot," he says.