Euphorbia The Godene Project
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The Euphorbia and its fibre
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The Euphorbia and its fibre:

Both the Euphorbia Gregaria (EG) and Euphorbia Damarana are indigenous plants to Namibia. (map link) Commonly known as the "melkbos" ("milk bush"), both plants are very similar and differ only in seed and flower appearance. Neither plant, has until now had any significant agricultural or industrial potential. Both are found in the arid semi-desert regions and survive with minimal rainfall. Initial estimates show the greatest concentration to be located in the South of Namibia.

Until now, fibre producing plants with a fibre quality suitable for textile and industrial use were restricted to a well known, limited, number of plant families only.

The fibre component is found in the stem of the EG plant and is thus known as a bast (bark) fibre.

The CSIR evaluated the extractability of the fibre from the stem using conventional water retting techniques, with the aim of degrading non-structural components so as to ease the fibre extraction process. Water retting took place for 7-14 days.

The results after thorough washing, produced a fine, soft, pliable and strong fibre. These samples were also sent to the Sachsisches Textil Forschungs Institut of Germany for testing. Although the tests were not exhaustive, the findings were: " From our experience the results determine a textile workable fibre. "

The IDC carried out preliminary analysis of Godene Fibre production using a model developed by the IDC's specialists. According to this model, the price for GF could be lower than for other commercial plant fibres used in textiles, such as, for example cotton.

At present, further research is required into the exact distribution and population numbers of EG plants (mapping) which will require aerial and further field surveys as well as aerial photography and satellite imaging. The rate of growth of cultivated EG plants and the re-growth of harvested stems and their potential for sustainable commercial plant harvesting, as well as the environmental impact thereof, still needs assessment.

Further definitive research is required into the morphological structure of the EG plant compared to other well known commercial fibre plants such as jute, kenaf, hemp and ramie, so as to develop the most appropriate extraction methodology. Various methods of reducing the duration of retting, increasing productivity and minimising environmental impact need further investigation. Such methods may include chemical and/or enzymatic processes.

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