First Sustainable Cooking Fuel Facility Opened in Mozambique

Screenshot of charcoal burning in Mozambique. Source: Vimeo.

Screenshot of charcoal burning in Mozambique. Source: Vimeo.

CleanStar Mozambique, an integrated food, energy, and forest protection business, has opened what it says is the world’s first sustainable cooking fuel facility near the Port of Beira. The biofuel plant produces ethanol from cassava (or mandioca), in an attempt to replace the country’s dependence on charcoal for energy.

CleanStar Mozambique aims to provide a cleaner alternative to meeting the demands for food and cooking fuel in Africa, according to its mission statement. The facility will supply ethanol-based cooking fuel — a cleaner, faster, and safer energy source — to Maputo, Mozambique. The facility opened in May.

Cassava is found in most backyards within Mozambique, making it a great alternative to charcoal. CleanStar Mozambique’s mission is to engage farmers in a sustainable, restorative system in Maputo. The biofuel plant manufactures liquid fuel that is then transported to cities and sold in bottles. Ethanol production is currently at 2 million liters annually, and CleanStar Mozambique believes this will increase greatly over the next few years.

Picture of Maputo. Source: Wikimedia.

Maputo. Source: Wikimedia.

“Today marks an important milestone in the mission to eliminate dirty cooking fuels from Africa’s leading cities,” said Greg Murray, chairman of CleanStar Mozambique, said in a WorldofChemicals article.

“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.”

The replacement of charcoal with alternative cooking fuel is vital for Mozambique. Currently, 80 percent of Mozambique’s population uses charcoal, even though it creates adverse health effects, is harmful to the environment, and extremely costly. Over the past several years, alternative cooking fuel has become even more attractive due to the inflation of charcoal prices. A Maputo family spends about $30 per month on charcoal alone, which is the price of an entire ethanol cook stove, according to The New York Times.

“There is great potential for biofuel in Africa,” said Thomas Nagy, executive vice president of industrial biotechnology company, Novozymes, told the newspaper. “We’re showing that the bio-based society we talk about in the West is not only for the large agricultural powerhouses of the world — it will perhaps have the most impact and greatest success in the least developed countries.”

Earlier this year, CleanStar Mozambique began selling ethanol cooking stoves in Maputo. Made by the Swedish company Dometic, the stoves were first used on a larger scale in Ethiopia. CleanStar plans on monitoring the stoves over time to make an assessment of how much carbon is replaced by this sustainable method. This information will be used to acquire “carbon credits” which will then be traded to polluting countries to offset their greenhouse gas emission levels. Consequently, the Bank of America Merill Lynch has invested $4 million dollars in the project in the hopes that they will be able to acquire the carbon credits.

Founded in 2010 by Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures, CleanStar Mozambique has been able to use the urban demand for food and subsequently cooking fuel to encourage sustainable development within Mozambique. CleanStar Mozambique has five goals: Protect forests, produce food, deliver energy, enrich lives through community engagement, and reduce air pollution.