Yesterday Africa’s first bio-ethanol cooking fuel plant opened in central Mozambique. The partnership between Novozymes and CleanStar Mozambique, NDZiLO, will provide cleaner, safer and cheaper cooking biofuel for families in Mozambique who generally rely on charcoal for cooking. At full capacity the plant will produce 8000 gallons of ethanol a week, which the company will then transport from the province of Dondo to a neighborhood in the capital of Maputo.
The bio-ethanol will be sourced from cassava, the most common food staple grown in the region. The 1500 Farmers participating in the program will be required to raise the cassava using a permaculture arrangement. For each plot of cassava, a plot of the same size must grow legumes and another, maize or another cereal grain. The farms must then be surrounded by agroforest in order to prevent water and soil runoff as well as provide shade to reduce the need for irrigation. Farmers will benefit from a reliable customer for their crops, and in fact, NDZiLO plans on opening a cassava flour mill near the biofuel plant to deal with any surplus.
But families and Mozambique’s forests will also find relief in the long run. The price of charcoal has tripled in price the past three years. One consequence of the charcoal industry is that deforestation has been a huge problem throughout Africa because locals indiscriminately cut down trees to make a living producing charcoal, since economic opportunities are otherwise scarce. The burning of charcoal for cooking has not only caused rampant air pollution in rural and urban regions alike, but the practice is often dangerous. Carbon monoxide poisoning and long-term lung damage are among the health problems that result from cooking with charcoal.
For now the plant is running at 25 percent capacity. The project is starting on a smaller scale because NDZiLO’s marketing and sales team need more time to find customers. So far 500 cook stoves have been sold with another 2200 on order. For the women, who overwhelmingly do the majority of cooking for their families in Mozambique, the daily ordeal of finding charcoal, cooking with the dirty fuel and inhaling the fumes and soot is about to be safer, cleaner and faster.