Mozambique makes history today as it witnesses the opening of the world’s first sustainable cooking fuel facility. Inaugurated by Federal Minister of Agriculture, José Pacheco, the facility will be dedicated to producing ethanol-based cooking fuel for sale with the company’s cookstoves in Mozambique’s capital Maputo. CleanStar’s complete “NDZiLO” cooking solution will offer Mozambican households an affordable new form of cooking that is cleaner, faster and safer than using charcoal.
Based in Dondo in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, the facility will produce 2 million litres per year of ethanol-based cooking fuel from surplus cassava supplied to the company by local farmers following CleanStar’s sustainable farming systems. The biofuel manufacturing plant is a key part of the integrated food and energy business of CleanStar Mozambique, a company formed in 2010 by Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures to use Mozambique’s rising urban demand for food and cooking fuel to drive sustainable rural development and environmental restoration.
“Today marks an important milestone in the mission to eliminate dirty cooking fuels from Africa’s leading cities”, says CleanStar Mozambique Chairman, Greg Murray. “This facility produces clean cooking fuel in a way that generates a reliable new income stream for local farmers, while ensuring that a continuous and affordable fuel supply reaches urban households. Our private-sector led approach in Mozambique provides an encouraging example for other resource-constrained African countries that are struggling to respond to rising food and energy prices, growing cities, and shrinking forests.“
From charcoal to clean biofuel
In preparation for this launch, over the last year CleanStar has been transitioning local subsistence farmers from slash-and-burn farming to more resilient conservation agriculture techniques involving synergistic cultivation of crops and trees to drastically increase their production and nutrition levels. CleanStar provides participating farmers with basic inputs and technical assistance, and purchases their surpluses at its rural agricultural centres in communities around the facility. Surplus cassava is converted to ethanol, and beans, sorghum, pulses and soya are processed into packaged food products for sale in Mozambique’s cities.
In Maputo, CleanStar has started pre-sales of its NDZiLO cookstove and cooking fuel products through its company-owned shop network, which is being expanded across the city in preparation for full launch later this year.
“We never estimated this much customer demand”, says Thelma Venichand, CleanStar’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “City women are tired of watching charcoal prices rise, carrying dirty fuel, and waiting for the day that they can afford a safe gas stove and reliable supply of imported cylinders. They are ready to buy a modern cooking device that uses clean, locally-made fuel, performs well and saves them time and money.”
Rise of a new industry: Clean cooking in African cities
The rapid growth of CleanStar Mozambique has been enabled by the finance, long-term vision and technical capabilities of the venture’s strategic shareholder, Novozymes.
“Sustainable biofuels have the potential to not only help solve critical energy needs, but also to spark wider positive changes in developing societies”, says Novozymes Executive Vice President Thomas Nagy. “We see this venture as a great example of what we call the biobased economy. Of how sustainable agriculture together with biotech solutions can meet the needs of people around the world.”
Throughout Africa, more than 80% of urban families buy charcoal to cook their food, a commodity that is increasing in price as forests retreat, in a market now estimated to be worth more than $10 billion “deforestation dollars” per annum. In Maputo for example, charcoal prices have doubled over the last 3 years.
According to the World Health Organization inhaling charcoal smoke has the health impact of smoking two packs of cigarettes per day, and the organization estimates that indoor air pollution from solid fuel use, including charcoal, causes almost 2 million deaths annually.
Several companies and organizations are joining Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures in the effort to create a new industry for clean cooking in African cities. ICM of the United States, a global leader in ethanol process technology, helped custom-design, finance, build and commission CleanStar’s highly replicable cooking fuel facility at Dondo. In addition, in November 2011, Bank of America Merrill Lynch provided significant upfront carbon financing to CleanStar Mozambique which is helping to unlock additional equity and debt for the scale up of the business. Discussions are underway with several international and regional counterparties who seek to join the coalition.