Reporters on the Job
• You Want to Meet What Kind of Farmer? Staff writer Mark Sappenfield says that finding a farmer in one of India's leading states for growing jatropha was not easy. Although deep-pocketed industries see the potential value of the plant – which can be used to produce biodiesel fuel, among other things – and are investing in it, many small farmers are loath to grow something they don't know much about and aren't sure will sell (see story).
"My assistant, who speaks Hindi and helped set up interviews in Chhattisgarh, actually had to resort to knocking on people's doors late at night in hopes of tracking down the one man that locals knew was growing jatropha," says Mark.
"In the morning, when we all came to his plantation, he was less than enthused with his decision. At first, he sounded as if he were a government spokesman, extolling the virtues of jatropha. But as the interview progressed, he grew more sour."
The farmer told Mark that he had invested tens of thousands of rupees in a crop that is still a mystery to most local merchants. And with no one else joining him, there's no critical mass to attract a processing plant. "If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't do it," he conceded to Mark.
– Amelia Newcomb
Assistant World editor