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Castor Oil’s Many Uses Include Decreasing Poverty

It turns out castor oil seeds had a shot in the limelight recently. Did you ever watch the hit show Breaking Bad? Well it turns out, Ricin, a poison derived from the castor oil seed, was highly featured in the show to use against the main character’s enemies. (If you haven’t watched it, be warned, it’s a very intense show). In fact, a dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human.
But don’t worry. Castor oil itself is harmless and has a variety of beneficial uses including agriculture, food, textile chemicals, paper, plastics and rubber, cosmetics and perfumes, electronics and telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, paints, inks and additives, lubricants, and bio-fuels.
Castor Oil Plantations Help Decrease Poverty
Castor has been making its way back into the limelight recently by helping countries affected by global warming revamp their income strategies.
As you may know, food scarcity is a huge problem amongst developing nations. But imagine if all of your life earnings were dependent on the weather. If you have a good year, your crops will grow, but if there is a drought your plantations will die and you will have nothing to survive on. That’s pretty stressful.
Luckily castor plantations seem to be able to survive harsh weather conditions and are helping farmers bring the probability of success in their favor.
Castor Oil To The Rescue
Ambory has been plagued by drought. It’s a village in the southern tip of Madagascar filled with modest huts made of wood and sword-shaped leaves. The families that inhabit the area have bad news. Their maize crops have failed to grow to the optimal size. This means less food for the 600,000 Androy population who are already facing food insecurity.
Luckily Germany’s International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) has given 20 farmers the funds and supplies to grow castor plants – a low-maintenance crop that will grow in drought and in soils with poor mineral content.
The project hopes to help 30,000 of the Androy population by providing them with a regular source of income by using imported hybrid castor oil seeds to grow castor crops. These seeds have an advantage over regular seeds as they are stronger and can be reused many times.
The project has been a large success so far. It’s helping Madagascan farmers reach self-sufficiency by allowing them to provide for themselves as GIZ ensured there are guaranteed buyers available to buy the product and inject money back into the economy.
Effects of the project are already apparent. For example five mobile phones and bicycles were purchased by the villagers. This is a pretty impressive feat considering prior to castor oil plantations the village wouldn’t have had enough money to eat let alone for electronics and transportation.
What’s next for Castor Oil Plants?
As climate change continues to dramatically change how countries grow crops, castor oil could potentially be a saviour in drought-stricken countries.

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank and secondary containment coating applications, and its durable frac tank coatings. Castagra is used by the world’s top oil and gas field services companies.