Torsten Mandal
  • 63, Male
  • Frederiksberg, Copenhagen
  • Denmark
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  • Moshe Terdman
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Profile Information

What is the name of your company or organisation?
Torsten Mandal
What is your position in your company or organisation?
Development Consultant, agronomist
What does your company of organisation do?
Training, research, consultancies, preparation of training material focused on sustainable establishment and management of tropical firewood trees. This includes improved low-input direct seeding, recycling wood ash as nutrient to nitrogen fixing trees / legumes, direct seeding, improving biological nitrogen fixation, improved management of tree legumes so they produce good firewood, feed and seeds, between crops, and effective soil- and water-conservation. A range of innovative methods has been developed with farmers and recognised research institutions, and many of them published in international research publications since 1996. Key-parameters have generally been improved statistically significantly and more than twice compared to controls by using simple low-input methods.
In which African countries does your company or organisation operate?
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda so far. Has relevant experiences from mainly Ghana and Benin too. Can work in any African country.
What is your website?

Comment Wall (12 comments)

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At 3:30pm on July 14, 2010, Andrew Amadi said…
Hi Torsten, It sounds interesting, my experience with sustainable biofuels is that the costs are still quite high. What did your research reveal on the costs?
At 1:12pm on August 31, 2009, Myra Mukulu said…
Hi Torsten... sorry for delays.. i get mails better on my office mail
At 9:29am on August 31, 2009, Torsten Mandal said…
Hi Clive. Thanks for the replies.
I live in Copenhagen, but do not know which climate arrangement I’ll participate in. My phones are +45 35 26 2100 and land +45 61 81 12 21 if you come by. Are you coming?
Direct seeding not just in pots but directly in the field could probably save a lot of costs, at least with suitable improvement which need development and testing. I think I can get them to start germinate earlier and to be less affected by dry spells. The seed or drought is often blamed for direct seeding problems which may be avoidable. Likewise, drought and cultivation is blamed rather than the transplanting when transplanted trees fail due top big tops with short often damaged roots. One can test seeds first, have some ready to bare root transplant locally with improved methods, and have some container seedling as back-up somewhere. Still, the simplest direct seeding or untested ideas may not be sufficiently reliable, and I understand you put nurseries in the budget. The 4 months to get them ready should probably be added to 3 months in nursery; and then we reach the same total we used to get man-high dense green calliandra, despite it is a real tree probably starting growth much more slowly.
African farmers are surviving on taking many small risks (like direct seeding a few hundred new types of seeds first) and trying to avoid the big risks.
Most I Googled (Jatropha tropical) writes it is tropical and some tropical and sub tropical but not tolerating frost.
Intercropping usually works best with very different type of plants.
It seems like wood ash and organic matter without too much rapidly released nitrogen may improve Jatropha growth and seed production on poor soil, but may not have been tried directly.
Even the best comprehensive big agro-industry plans often fails if local experience is lacking and flexibility is low. Still, it is important to plan for the whole chain. Investors may be worried for the nut supply, now when US biodiesel-industries run with low capacity use.
Danish farming evolved first really with better integration of legumes and local peasant participation at all levels. Now our forestry is getting more diverse and natural.

It could be interesting to collaborate with some big enough to making research profitable. It may also be easier to get Danish funding these days for collaborating with companies than NGO's.

I do not know the Danish projects except the home page for Karatu Tanzania.
At 12:55am on August 31, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…

The model for KBC KIA Kilimanjaro - Arusha region is also applicable to the MIA - West of Kenya regions. Following the Copenhagen Protocols we should discover a lot more investor interests as well as ADB (Asia and Africa) and WB finance supporting agricultural development generally. While there are many Agricultural Centres of Excellence very few are actually designed to systematically promote large scale agricultural extension.
At 12:45am on August 31, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Sorry I know you are from Denmark but, wanted to speak well of Holland. Are you aware of the Danish interest in Jatropha in Tanzania and Indonesia? Will you be in Copenhagen later this year?
At 12:36am on August 31, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Calliandra may not be the best tree legume for the semi arid areas but for much of the sub-humid tropics and humid tropic, yes this is generally correct, while the opportunity to promote agricultural extension from a Centre of Excellence should not be missed when there can be additional Biomass and potential income generation. Within the regions available for Jatropha Curcas and other energy species there will be suitable locations. The whole value chain is important, but often the whole thing is not in place at the same time. Recognising this the KBC program seeks to address each part of the value chain and ensure that capital, community, infrastructure, technology transfer, operational finance, training and management are elements of a complete new industry profile. It is important people can try a new crop at a small scale with out risking loosing much land, money, or seeds. Yes! Essentially the burden of risk must be minimised for all parties by adopting a complete industry cycle that has the support of policy, research, technology and finance. So many trial and see programs do deliver over optimistic expectations and costs to the poorest of all communities. Most investments in the least developed regions are based on exploitiation with little notion of fair trade. Direct seeding gives longer lasting and more drought tolerant Jatropha than cuttings. This is a fact. Our ideology with the Centre of Excellence is to establish the agricultural architecture that will allow for the production of first class seedlings to be planted out at the Orchard development lands after 2 months. Having said this there may be some advantages to be gained from various tissue culture methodologies. Seedlings will be delivered for planting out inclusive of nutrient support and plant protection protocols, farmers will have been trained by extension professionals how to maintain the seedlings to mature stands. Some adjustments will have to be made to accommodate the continuous planting program as not all times of the year are ideal for planting Jatropha. Good agro-industry in Africa often combines intensive and extensively grown areas, and seek lowest possible costs with moderate or high out-put. Price fluctuatioons should not be fatal. Low-cost, pro-poor technologies can be knowledge intensive and require good research to be efficient. See e.g. my articles on how low cost and high output can be combined for young tree legumes at least. It is essential to instigate professional extension and establish the routes to processing and market as part of the over all program. Certainly one seeks a "least cost" solution to events along a value chain but this should not necessarily imply cheap or inadequate expense. It is a question of cost to value, many have no real notion of what is economic. If one reviews the vast majority of Jatropha Curcas investment interventions they are built for bankruptcy. If many peasants do not benefit without being highly dependent or risking much, then many will be against taking land out of food production for fuel. The over all impact of non-food crops grown on non-food land will be that incomes are generated attracting more people to the land that has formerly been left fallow, they need to be fed and they will have income to purchase food this will stimulate increased demand and hence more food production. Coupled to the professional extension of a non-food species, like Jatropha, one might expect that there will be a complimentary effect upon over all agricultural activity. Generally, and my experience comes from growing up in the rural areas of East Africa, the communities of Africa are exceptionally adept at managing resources when supported into a program. In fact there is good evidence that improved water management, food security and related productivity are a key feature of regions where income flow from work has established. I made reference to tea and coffee by way of illustrating the managed processes that have been constantly delivered over many years. This is the case with other agriculture/horticulture which has become institutionalised. Non-food, energy crops can justify at least this level of interest; perhaps much higher. The food V/s Fuel argument should be quite amusing to a man from Holland; your tiny country produces more horticulture/agriculture than most of Africa. Management and incentive are the key factors allowing knowledge to be used productively. Certainly with the case of Jatropha the R & D interests have been supported most from Holland across all of the regions. Second is Germany while the UK and USA are miles behind. UK/USA have however; raised the most amount of private equity. In the EU Biorefinery technologies are well developed but it is the USA that has fabricated the synergy of these into a processing platform.

PS I do not understand why you often write about sub tropics, when you mention tropical countries (sub humid and semiarid areas).

I try to be generalist. It is possible to be much more specific but, for the most part I think the majority of interested people will understand. Of course in any region there will be multiple climate and micro climate considerations as well as soil types. My role is really focused upon the ideological framework required to obtain objectives and the policies required to support the same. So far we have excellent policy support for energy crops grown on land unfit or not generally used for food. The complete program of establishing orchards of Jatropha Curcas inter cropped with Castor, serviced by Pollinators (bees) and harvested for complete renewable biomass will bring massive amounts of land into the cycle of productivity and ultimately lead to general improvements in all agricultural land use. At least this is the objective. More than anything the intervention will lead to improved water management as the dry area seasonal rains will be captured more efficiently. While the world is busy discussion making fuels from plant materials we also have to develop our ability to obtain more usable water. We have to get better at capturing, keeping, using. Jatropha orchards may actually assist with this by delivering the incentives to do so.
At 9:05pm on August 30, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Calliandra hedgerows would be an ideal species to use as land area demarcation and biomass to compliment Jatropha-Castor-Lasquella. While I am using Jatropha as a species of illustration there are quite a few energy crop-oil seed varieties that could be grown in the sub tropical regions. Essentially the waste to fertilizer, waste to Energy and biorefinery technologies can assist with improving food and fuel security. For in vestors they need an export value put-put in order to be happy. This is where Bio Jet Fuel comes into play. It's no good making oil for export by sea for processing in the EU or USA. One needs to produce high value economic events for local or national consumption. There is no other company actually seeking the full picture at this time but some are beginning to see where the logic is. So not low cost, low tec but one needs to understand that the support for farming has to be a continual focus in order to support the high value inputs.
At 8:50pm on August 30, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Torsten, I am connected to and/or aware of research into various aspects of Jatropha Curcas throughout the sub tropical regions. You are quite correct that there is exceptional weaknesses in terms of practical extension and development of technology platforms that can deliver sustainable alternative energy from agricultural activity. I am aware of the underfunded village styled projects that seek to use small oil extraction and promote JCL oil stoves. These are exceptionally valuable interventions that deserve support however; KBC is seeking to represent a "new Industry" model that would move the opportunity for many to escape subsistence farming forward. Considering Jatropha as a Biomass crop that can be inter cropped with Castor as well as other non-food energy crop species allows for consideration for least cost high volume agricultural activity that can deliver multiple energy options. Not least the direct export of Bio Jet Fuel and generation of combined heat and power in sufficient quantities to deliver a quality rate of return on investment. The magic is not in improving the seed oil content but practical professional agricultural extension, rural farming community support and harvest yield management topped off with the most essential ingredient; which is a FairTrade price for the harvested resource. Only by doing this can one develop a worthwhile industry from a plant species. Professional cultivation will lead to higher oil content and more biomass.
This blog gives some idea of the costs.
At 5:38pm on August 30, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…

KBC's plan includes developing our own energy crop, semi-arid land, renewable energy Centre of Excellence as a new industry research, training and direct technology transfer and marketing institute.
At 1:38am on August 26, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Well I am not thinking that we will ever grow Jatropha Curcas Linn in the beautiful Southern Highlands of Tanzania but there is a world of experience many of those who have engaged with the promotion of JCL could have gained from simply taking the time to learn how a Tea or a Coffee estate operates and appreciate how much effort and time (decades of years) it has taken to arrive at the quality of agricultural extension this JCL species needs to emulate. Is it possible ? Yes, I think so. We have needed a clear demand for harvest yield, a good potential global value on our lead product and a least cost solution that meets the drop in requirement of our client. With this we can engineer a successful agriculture to global industry platform that can operate throughout the zones were JCL can be cultivated. Working proactively through Centres of Excellence we hope to repair and improve land values, add value to both food and fuel security and deliver opportunities that have socio-economic and environmental credibility. The type of people attracted by these sentiments are seeking triple bottom line ROI from a strategic standpoint.

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