LUSAKA – Immediately after the Luapula Expo, Sunbird Bioenergy Africa’s project team mobilised to Kawambwa, Luapula Province, Zambia, to commence work on a cassava out-grower program that will provide the sustainable feedstock for a bioenergy project that is expected to produce 120 million litres of bioethanol per year for the country’s ethanol-fuel blending program.
The Luapula Expo was organised to promote the regions investment potential in agriculture, tourism and mining to regional and international investors. Addressing His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Gala Dinner, Richard Bennett, CEO of Sunbird Bioenergy Africa, highlighted that this project was strategic to the country and would provide more than 15% of Zambia’s petroleum requirement representing an import substitution of $100m as well as create 20,000 economic opportunities for cassava out-growers and small-scale rural farmers.
Richard Bennett also told the audience that for the project to reach its full capacity, it is necessary to increase cassava production in Luapula Province, and that the company is taking direct action to achieve this, including:
- Development of a cassava nursery to produce high quality cassava planting materials for out-growers in Luapula province. The nursery will multiply the latest breeds of cassava that produce the highest yields per hectare of land and in-turn the highest profits for the out-growers. This will also provide quality control for the operations.
- Appointment of Vana to design and implement the cassava out-grower program. The Vana team will be responsible for recruiting and registering 20,000 out-growers for the project. They will ensure that the out-growers grow new cassava for the project so that there is no impact on the local food security. In addition, Vana will provide training and farming extension services that will allow the out-growers to maximise their cassava yields and financial returns.
- A micro-finance initiative with the Africa fintech specialist MyBucks to enable out-growers to participate in the project. Funding is available in 2017 for 5,000 out-growers to purchase the necessary planting materials and to pay for land clearance services. This will be extended to 20,000 out-growers in 2018.
Earlier in the day, His Excellency President Lungu visited Sunbird Bioenergy and Vana at their exhibition stand where the teams presented an overview of the cassava out-grower program to be implemented in Kawambwa.
Today’s mobilisation to Kawambwa will be the community’s first interface with the company. The team, lead by Vana, are commencing an out-reach program to promote the out-grower program to small-scale farmers in the province. The company will formally launch the out-grower program in September 2017 and targets to recruit and register an initial 5,000 out-growers. The out-grower package will include: micro finance from MyBucks, cassava planting materials, agricultural inputs including fertiliser, and training and extension services. Sunbird Bioenergy undertakes to purchase all the cassava produced by the registered out-growers.
Nickson Chilangwa, Minister for Luapula Province said “Sunbird Bioenergy’s immediate deployment to Kawambwa further demonstrates the power of the Luapula Expo to create economic opportunities for the small-scale farmers in the province. Due to the remoteness of the region, value-addition to crops such as cassava are vital, and I am delighted that Sunbird Bioenergy remains committed to building a cassava-to-ethanol biorefinery in Kawambwa.
Sunbird Bioenergy Africa is a developer and operator of large-scale bioenergy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa that deliver renewable energy and transportation fuels, and is developing projects in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Richard Bennett said “We have specifically selected cassava as the primary feedstock for this project to enable maximum participation by the local communities, particularly women and youth. When the project is fully implemented, we expected to annually purchase $15m of cassava from the community each year, which will have demonstrable economic impact in the region, as well as a strategic asset for the country that will produce 15% of the country’s petroleum requirement”.
The company has a proven track record of delivering projects, and their operating flagship project in Sierra Leone has a capacity to produce 32 MW of power and 85 million litres of ethanol. Uniquely, each project has a significant out-grower program that allows rural communities to participate in the project, significantly increasing household income in rural communities, particularly for women and youth.