Prosperity grows in arid Wonogiri

The tamanu tree [Calophyllum inophyllum] has been helping humans out since prehistoric times.

Also known as ‘mastwood,’ it’s been used by shipbuilders for millennia because it grows tall and strong in sandy, rocky areas. Tamanu is native to tropical Asia, and was carried by Austronesians on their migrations to Oceania and Madagascar: the tree was as valuable to these voyagers as oak was to their European counterparts.

In Polynesia, indigenous groups affectionately call the tamanu tree “beauty leaf,” as they use the  oil from the fruit kernel as a moisturiser and healing balm, as well as a hair grease and painkiller. These days tamanu oil is used internationally in a range of skin and hair-care products.

Now, the fragrant, deep brown oil may yet serve another purpose: bioenergy. A mature tamanu grove can yield up to 20 tons of crude oil per hectare each year. In the Wonogiri district of Central Java, Indonesia, a new study shows that cultivating tamanu for bioenergy on degraded land can achieve multiple benefits for farmers while restoring the land, as well as…