To ensure a sustainable supply of feedstock for the factory and to deliver our rural development objectives, Sunbird Bioenergy Sierra Leone has contracted Vana Global (“Vana”) to develop an out-grower program that will engage local small-scale farmers in along the Makeni-Lunsar axis.
Vana was founded with the aim of reinventing agriculture for the 21st century to end the hardship that small-scale African farmers continue to face. Vana uses a combination of global financing and technology, which is invested in small-scale farmers in emerging economies to boost productivity and financial returns.
In Sierra Leone, they are working with both Sunbird Bioenergy to create a sustainable supply of biomass for the powerstation and directly with the local communities to improve their crop production and in turn increase local income and food security. Sunbird Bioenergy acts as an anchor customer and provides a secure income for the small-scale farmers, and Vana then helps them to invest in the efficient production of other staples such as rice and sorghum.
Vana Global, Community Engagement in Sierra Leone.
For the 2018 season, Vana have recruited 4,000 small-scale farmers and transportation contractors to supply sustainable biomass to the factory. The biomass feedstock will be used to create renewable energy that is used on the estate and exported to the Government of Sierra Leone. The company expects to export a continuous 20 MW of electricity throughout the dry season, which we believe makes this the largest biomass power project on the African continent.
The Vana team work extensively with the local communities to teach all aspects of farming including: crop productivity, health and safety, finance and marketing. They have their own proprietary methodology and integrated platform to empower small-scale farmers to become self-sufficient business owners. By doing so they are fostering inclusive growth by increasing yields and profits.
The long-term vision is to create an Agri-Processing Zone (APZ) along the Makeni-Lunsar axis. With Vana, we are currently investigating how local small-scale farmers can increase increase the production of cassava for possible use as an alternative feedstock for ethanol production. Vana are working directly with the communities to create new markets and income generating opportunities for other crops that grow well in the region such as okra, bell peppers, chillies, turmeric and ginger.