BetterWorld MD nominated to Advisory Board of the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure

Benjamin Warr, BetterWorld Energy founder and managing director has been nominated to the Advisory Board of the International Advisory Committee for Mine Closure 2019, contributing to setting the agenda for the 13th International Conference on Mine Closure, from the 3rd to 5th September 2019 to be held in Westin, Perth, Western Australia.


A good overview of the Pongamia tree and the products it provides from Revolvy here.

It’s rare to find a good comprehensive online overview of Pongamia pinnata, but here is one we found at Revolvy. We’ll see how we can update this information to take into account our pioneering work in Africa on degraded mine sites.

Next - they also have a great go-to guide on Pongam oil HERE !

Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre[2] is a species of tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, native in tropical and temperate Asia including parts of Indian subcontinentChinaJapanMalaysiaAustralia and Pacific islands. It is often known by the synonym Pongamiapinnata as it was moved to the genus Millettia only recently. Common names include Indian beechPongam oiltreekaranj (Hindi), honge/karajata (ಹೊಂಗೆ/ಕರಜಾತ in Kannada), pungai (புங்கை in Tamil), kānuga (కానుగ in Telugu), karach(করচ গাছ in Bengali), naktamāla (नक्तमाल in Sanskrit), Magul karanda (මැගුල් කරන්ද in Sinhala), Sukh Chain (سکھ چین in Urdu).

Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre is a legumetree that grows to about 15–25 metres (50–80 ft) in height with a large canopy which spreads equally wide. It may be deciduous for short periods. It has a straight or crooked trunk, 50–80 centimetres (20–30 in) in diameter, with grey-brown bark which is smooth or vertically fissured. Branches are glabrous with pale stipulate scars. The imparipinnate leaves of the tree alternate and are short-stalked, rounded or cuneate at the base, ovate or oblong along the length, obtuse-acuminate at the apex, and not toothed on the edges. They are a soft, shiny burgundy when young and mature to a glossy, deep green as the season progresses with prominent veins underneath.[5]

Flowering generally starts after 3–4 years with small clusters of white, purple, and pink flowers blossoming throughout the year. The raceme-like inflorescence bear two to four flowers which are strongly fragrant and grow to be 15–18 millimetres (0.59–0.71 in) long. The calyx of the flowers is bell-shaped and truncate, while the corolla is a rounded ovate shape with basal auricles and often with a central blotch of green color.[4][6]

Croppings of indehiscent pods can occur by 4–6 years. The brown seed pods appear immediately after flowering and mature in 10 to 11 months. The pods are thick-walled, smooth, somewhat flattened and elliptical, but slightly curved with a short, curved point. The pods contain within them one or two bean-like brownish-red seeds, but because they do not split open naturally the pods need to decompose before the seeds can germinate. The seeds are about 1.5–2.5 centimetres (0.59–0.98 in) long with a brittle, oily coat and are unpalatable to herbivores.[5][6]

Naturally distributed in tropical and temperate Asia, from India to Japan to Thailand to Malesia to north and north-eastern Australia to some Pacific islands;[1][4] It has been propagated and distributed further around the world in humid and subtropical environments from sea-level to 1200m, although in the Himalayan foothills it is not found above 600m.[7]Withstanding temperatures slightly below 0 °C (32 °F) and up to about 50 °C (120 °F) and annual rainfall of 500–2,500 mm (20–100 in), the tree grows wild on sandy and rocky soils, including oolitic limestone, and will grow in most soil types, even with its roots in salt water.[8]

The tree is well suited to intense heat and sunlight and its dense network of lateral roots and its thick, long taproot make it drought-tolerant. The dense shade it provides slows the evaporation of surface water and its root nodules promote nitrogen fixation, a symbiotic process by which gaseous nitrogen (N) from the air is converted into ammonium (NH+, a form of nitrogen available to the plant). M. pinnata is also a fresh water flooded forest species as it can survive total submergence in sweet water for few months continuously. M. pinnata tree is the pioneer tree in Ratargul fresh water flooded forest in Bangladesh and Tonlesap lake swamp forests in Cambodia

Millettia pinnata is an outbreeding diploid legume tree, with a diploid chromosome number of 22.[6] Root nodules are of the determinate type (as those on soybean and common bean) formed by the causative bacterium Bradyrhizobium.

Millettia pinnata is renowned for its shade and is well known in traditional uses for its medicinal properties. It is also grown as a host plant for lacinsects. The tree is also one of the food plants for Common Cerulean (Jamides celeno). The seeds contain pongam oil that is now being explored as an alternate fuel source.

Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre is well-adapted to arid zones and has many traditional uses. It is often used for landscaping purposes as a windbreak or for shade due to the large canopy and showy fragrant flowers. The flowers are used by gardeners as compost for plants requiring rich nutrients. The bark can be used to make twine or rope and it also yields a black gum that has historically been used to treat wounds caused by poisonous fish. The wood is said to be beautifully grained but splits easily when sawn thus relegating it to firewood, posts, and tool handles.[7]

While the oil and residue of the plant are toxic and will induce nausea and vomiting if ingested, the fruits and sprouts, along with the seeds, are used in many traditional remedies.[8] Juices from the plant, as well as the oil, are antiseptic and resistant to pests. In addition M. pinnata has the rare property of producing seeds of 25–40% lipid content of which nearly half is oleic acid.[9] Oil made from the seeds, known as pongamia oil, is an important asset of this tree and has been used as lamp oil, in soap making, and as a lubricant for thousands of years. The oil has a high content of triglycerides, and its disagreeable taste and odor are due to bitter flavonoid constituents including karanjin, pongamol, tannin and karanjachromene.[8] It can be grown in rainwater harvesting ponds up to 6 m (20 ft) in water depth without losing its greenery and remaining useful for biodiesel production.[10]

The residue of oil extraction, called press cake, is used as a fertilizer and as animal feed for ruminants and poultry.[11]

Long used as shade tree, M. pinnata is heavily self-seeding and can spread lateral roots up to 9 m (30 ft) over its lifetime. If not managed carefully it can quickly become a weed leading some, including Miami-Dade County, to label the tree as an invasive species.[12] However this dense network of lateral roots makes this tree ideal for controlling soil erosion and binding sand dunes.[7]

Research efforts
The seed oil has been found to be useful in diesel generators and, along with Jatropha and Castor, it is being explored in hundreds of projects throughout India and the third world as feedstock for biodiesel.[13] It is especially attractive because it grows naturally through much of arid India, having very deep roots to reach water, and is one of the few crops well-suited to commercialization by India's large population of rural poor. Several unelectrified villages have recently used pongamia oil, simple processing techniques, and diesel generators to create their own grid systems to run water pumps and electric lighting.[14]

In 1997, the Indian Institute of Science started researching and promoting the use of the seed oil as a vegetable oil fuel for stationary generators for electricity and irrigation pumps in the rural areas of Karnataka and Andhra. The program, SuTRA, successfully demonstrated the sustainability of such oil use in several villages all over India.

In 2003, the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy as part of its Biofuel Rural Development Initiative started a campaign of education and public awareness to rural farmers about M. pinnata in two Indian states. One of the Himalayan Institute's partners developed a consistently high yield scion that reduced the time it takes to mature from 10 years to as little as three. To help the farmers in the transition from traditional crops to M. pinnata the Indian government has contributed over $30 million in low-interest loans and donated 4.5 million kg (5,000 short tons) of rice to sustain impoverished drought-stricken farmers until the trees begin to produce income. Since the project began in 2003 over 20 million trees have been planted and 45,000 farmers are now involved.[15]

Pacific Renewable Energy trial plantation in Caboolture, Queensland.

In 2006, the Himalayan Institute began looking at locations in Africa to transplant M. pinnata into. Initially they began in Uganda but due to the lack of infrastructure and growing desertificationthe project has been growing very slowly. They have also begun a project in the Kumbo region of Cameroon where conditions are better. There has been some suggestions that M. pinnata could be grown all the way across the continent as a way to prevent the encroachment of the Sahara.[16]

The University of Queensland node of the Australian Research Council Center for Excellence in Legume Research, under the directorship of Professor Peter Gresshoff, in conjunction with Pacific Renewable Energyare currently working on M. pinnata for commercial use for the production of biofuel. Projects are currently focused on understanding aspects of M. pinnata including root biology, nodulation, nitrogen fixation, domestication genes, grafting, salinity tolerance, and the genetics of the oil production pathways. Emphasis is given to analyzing carbon sequestration (in relation to carbon credits) and nitrogen gain.

Research has also been put into using the material left over from the oil extraction as a feed supplement for cattle, sheep and poultry as this byproduct contains up to 30% protein. Other studies have shown some potential for biocidal activity against V. cholerae and E. coli, as well an anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive (reduction in sensitivity to painful stimuli) and antipyretic (reduction in fever) properties. There is also research indicating that M. pinnata can be used as a natural insecticide.[17]


  1. "Millettia pinnata"Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2010-05-02.


  3. "Plants profile for Millettia pinnata (pongame oiltree)". PLANTS Profile. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2012-03-30.

  4. Hyland, B. P. M.; Whiffin, T.; Zich, F. A.; et al. (Dec 2010). "Factsheet – Millettia pinnata". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Edition 6.1, online version [RFK 6.1]. Cairns, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), through its Division of Plant Industry; the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research; the Australian Tropical Herbarium, James Cook University. Retrieved 14 Mar 2013.

  5. Orwa C.; Mutua A.; Kindt R.; Jamnadass R.; Simons A. (2009). "Pongamia pinnata; Fabaceae - Papilionoideae; (L.) Pierre; pongam, karanj, karanga, kanji" (PDF). Agroforestry Database version 4.0. Retrieved 2013-11-27.

  6. "Weed Risk Assessment : Pongamia" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-21.

  7. Pongamia pinnata - a nitrogen fixing tree for oilseed Archived 2016-01-17 at the Wayback Machine.

  8. "Factsheet from New crops at Purdue University". 1998-01-08. Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  9. "Pongamia Factsheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  10. "Rain water harvesting by fresh water flooded forests". Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  11. Heuzé V., Tran G., Delagarde R., Hassoun P., Bastianelli D., Lebas F., 2017. Karanja (Millettia pinnata). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO.

  12. "Miam-Dade County Invasive Plants" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  13. Karmee, SK; Chadha, A (2005). "Preparation of biodiesel from crude oil of Pongamia pinnata". Bioresource Technology. 96 (13): 1425–9. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2004.12.011PMID 15939268.

  14. "On Biodiesel". Archived from the original on April 26, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  15. Himalayan Institute Archived 2007-08-25 at the Wayback Machine.

  16. "Biodiesel in Africa". 2006-01-18. Retrieved 2013-09-28.

  17. Scott, Paul T.; Pregelj, Lisette; Chen, Ning; Hadler, Johanna S.; Djordjevic, Michael A.; Gresshoff, Peter M. (2008). "Pongamia pinnata: An Untapped Resource for the Biofuels Industry of the Future". BioEnergy Research. 1: 2. doi:10.1007/s12155-008-9003-0.

External links

Mining for Zambia focuses on our work to regenerate land and generate power from our trees.

In what is an environmental world-first, a unique species of tree from India that can produce diesel fuel and other valuable by-products has been successfully planted on an area of disused mine-land outside the Copperbelt town of Chingola.

It’s the first stage of a $7.5 million project driven by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), in partnership with land regeneration experts BetterWorld Energy Zambia. The project, which is being funded in partnership with donor agencies and other financial institutions, will see the planting of 400 000 of the trees over the next three years. Read the full story here

TD2 Jan 2018 Plus Pongamia Land Regeneration and Biodiesel Project BetterWorld Copyright.JPG

We dream, we do. Bringing new life back to the Copperbelt.

BetterWorld Energy partnering with MUSIKA and KCM have pioneered the use of elite Pongamia pinnata (VayuSap TM) to revegetate KCM, Nkana mine disused copper tailings dump facilities in Chingola, Zambia. This project will not only help improve the quality of life for people living near the mine, but create long-term sustainable jobs for a post-mining community, producing bioenergy, bio-pesticides and bio-pharmaceuticals.

Learn about our strategic funding partners MUSIKA here.

Training Women in Tree Care, seeking to raise $5000

BetterWorld Energy is regenerating degraded and polluted landscapes in Zambia. We regenerate landscapes by planting trees that produce bio-energy, fertiliser for food crops and bio-pesticides. 

We want to train a group of local ladies - mothers, single mothers, orphans and widows - in tree planting and care. To enable them to participate we need to provide a stipend to enable them to support their families.  We hope that after 6 months we will have obtained project finance and these ladies will be fully-employed in a much bigger tree planting project.

Learn about our strategic funding partners MUSIKA here.

Showcasing the Pongamia value chain in India to Zambian Government Representatives

To secure permits for import of elite Pongamia pinnata from India to Zambia BetterWorld followed a rigorous plant quarantine and phytosanitary checks. We took representatives from the Forestry Department and Plant Quarantine and Phytosanitary Services (PQPS) from the Government of Zambia to India to inspect the sapling nursery in India , tree plantations, post-harvesting processing and end-use.

Visiting  plantation at JSW in Karnataka

Visiting plantation at JSW in Karnataka

Seed processing involves pressing dried de-hulled pongamia seeds.

Pressing Pongamia seeds

Pressing Pongamia seeds

Pressing produces a clear pure oil, which can be used in simple generators and smelters or further processed into biodiesel for blended use in modern cars, trucks or machinery.

Dr Prasad with fresh pressed pongamia oil

Dr Prasad with fresh pressed pongamia oil

Which can be put directly into a generator to provide low cost off-grid power.


Linking women from India to Zambia in South-South technology transfer

BetterWorld has developed a unique South-South technology transfer which links women in India and Zambia. Our elite Pongamia pinnata saplings start their journey in Southern India, where they are deleafed, desoiled and fumigated before their long trip to Zambia. 

Ladies cleaning soil from sapling roots

Ladies cleaning soil from sapling roots

Pongamia pinnata saplings are prepared before repacking, and fumigation ready for shipment to Zambia. 

Ready for fumigation and shipment

Ready for fumigation and shipment

Once the saplings arrive, we unpack, repot and acclimatize them.

BETTERWORLD nursery in Zambia

BETTERWORLD nursery in Zambia

They are then cared for by our team of ladies here.

Ladies caring for the SAPLINGS

Ladies caring for the SAPLINGS

World's first - BetterWorld Energy Prepares African Mine Site Regeneration with Pongamia

For the first time, elite Pongamia pinnata will be planted in Sub-Saharan Africa to bring life to a post-mining landscape in Zambia. Copper tailings are produced after copper bearing rocks are crushed and leached with sulphuric acid. The copper concentrate is removed and the resulting sediments are pumped into a tailings storage facility. These are then reprocessed to remove any remaining copper, and the storage facility is left abandoned, ready for rehabilitation.

Preparing Pongamia Salpings

BetterWorld Energy has a unique strategy to revegetation that makes good environmental sense, but also good economic sense. Our approach creates a whole new post-mining economy, jobs that last beyond the revegetation activities, through the production of bioenergy, bio-pesticides, high value bio-pharmaceuticals and organic fertilisers and animal feeds from plus variety Pongamia pinnata..

jobs for the future

For the first time, ladies from the local community are provided with the chance to envision a future of stable employment in a healthy environment. The new skills they have learnt, planting and caring for the new saplings, will be of considerable value as we seek to scale our ecosystem regeneration activities to a much larger area.

BetterWorld provides first assessment of Zambia's Forest Ecosystem Services

BetterWorld provides first assessment of Zambia's Forest Ecosystem Services

The aim of this study was to undertake a rapid assessment of the value and role of forests in the Zambian economy based on available information in order to inform policy decisions on forest management and the implementation of REDD+ activities in Zambia. The study is part of the country’s National UN-REDD Programme. REDD+ 1 is a financial mechanism designed to reward developing countries for their verified reductions or removals of forest carbon emissions compared to a forest reference (emission) level that complies with the relevant safeguards. Forests are an important component of Zambia’s natural capital and provide benefits that are critical for rural populations, urban areas, the national economy and the global community. Out of Zambia’s total land area of 75.3 million ha, estimates of remaining forest range from 39 million ha (CSO 2013) to 50 million ha (Kalinda et al. 2008) or 53 million ha (ZFD 2000). Estimates of deforestation rates range from 113,000 ha in 2012 by Global Forest Watch 2 to 167,000 ha per year in FAO’s Global Forest Resource Assessment (FAO 2010) and 250,000 ha per year (ILUA study) to even over 850,000 ha per year (FAO 2001, in Jumbe et al. 2008; GRZ 2006a). Zambia has the second highest per capita deforestation rate in Africa and the fifth highest in the world (Aongola et al. 2009). The main direct drivers of deforestation are charcoal production, agricultural and human-settlement expansion and illegal exploitation of timber. The study assessed the values of forests in the form of wood production (for timber, fuel wood and charcoal) and nonwood forest products, such as wild foods and medicines. In addition, regulating and cultural services were included, such as the economic value of nature-related tourism, regulation of the climate through carbon sequestration, the retention of sediment for erosion control, the regulation of water flow and water quality, and support for agricultural production through pest control and pollination. The study assesses the critical role that forest ecosystems play in sus - taining and supporting the stocks and flow of ecosystem services to various economic sectors and human well-be - ing in Zambia, as well as addressing potential opportunities that forests offer with respect to transitioning to a green economy, particularly the role of REDD+ in achieving this transformation. It is envisioned that this study will help to elevate the importance of sustainable forest management and conservation in national policy, for example through the national REDD+ strategy.

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