"Bioinnovation" company, Novozymes, announced recently that it will partner with environmental venture group, CleanStar Ventures, to help local smallholder farmers implement sustainable farming practices in sub-Saharan Africa.
The plan calls for construction of an integrated food-energy business that will replace charcoal-burning fireplaces with ethanol-burning stoves. The joint venture, known as CleanStar Mozambique, is intended to provide numerous benefits to local residents and the global environment, by reducing wood smoke, decreasing deforestation, raising local farmers' incomes and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the proposed business model, farmers will be able to grow a wider range of crops, simultaneously increasing profits and access to better nutrition. Farmers in the area presently rely on slash and burn agriculture to produce limited crops. The plan is centered on the ethanol-production facility, which will produce ethanol from locally grown cassava.
The "grain" alcohol will be sold throughout Africa as a cleaner, more environmentally friendly alternative to charcoal. Up to 80% of urban African households presently rely on inefficient charcoal for use as daily cooking fuel.
CleanStar Mozambique anticipates that by 2014 the venture will be able to supply up to 20% of households in the capital, Maputo, with the cleaner, more sustainable fuel. Chronic exposure to charcoal smoke has been linked to respiratory illnesses, while the demand for charcoal contributes heavily to rampant deforestation in Africa.
CleanStar believes its venture will reduce deforestation by at least 9,000 acres of indigenous forest annually.
"Agriculture in the developing world holds an enormous potential that can be realized with the assistance of biotechnology," says Novozymes Executive Vice President Thomas Nagy. "Through this partnership, local communities in Africa will be able to produce more food and energy while at the same time improving their health, restoring forests, cleaning the air, and growing the economy."
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