07 January 2020: His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia Launches Sunbird Bioenergy’s Out-Grower Program in Kawambwa, Luapula Province. The following os news coverage on Prime TV’s evening news.
Opening remarks by Richard Bennett, CEO, Sunbird Bioenergy Zambia.
• Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu
• Honourable Ministers
• Distinguished Guests
• The People of Kawambwa and indeed Luapula Province
• All protocols observed
I welcome you today to the launch of Sunbird Bioenergy Zambia’s cassava out-grower program.
The purpose of the out-grower program is to provide the cassava for our fuel-ethanol project which will be a carbon-neutral substitute for petrol in Zambia. Our new fuel-ethanol factory will convert the cassava grown by Kawambwa and Luapula farmers into 10% of Zambia’s petrol and save $100m initially of Zambia’s precious foreign exchange an annual basis, and annually reduce carbon emissions by 167,400 tonnes.
As you can immediately see, this is a strategically important project for Zambia to locally produce 10% of the country’s petroleum and strategically important to the farmers of Kawambwa and Luapula province who will grow and supply the cassava to the factory.
It is a fact that the new fuel-ethanol factory will require 700,000 tonnes of cassava every year. We are expecting this cassava to be supplied by approximately 20,000 out-growers and we will contribute a minimum of $20 million to the local farming community annually.
I welcome you all today to our cassava nursery. The purpose of the nursery is to supply high-quality cassava stems to the out-growers. This cassava nursery can now provide planting materiel for 5,000 Ha and support approximately 5,000 out-growers immediately
For the past 2+ years, we have been developing this nursery to multiply improved varieties of cassava for this project. The new varieties of cassava have higher yields and are disease free. This will increase the productivity and profit for new farmers. It is these new cassava stems that are being grown in this nursery that will now be distributed to our out-growers.
In the nursery we have also been developing a best practice to plant the cassava. You will find no weeds in our fields. The plants are correctly spaced on ridges and we have used the right amount of fertiliser. Consequently, we are getting approximately 40 tonnes per Ha of cassava which is 4 times the local average. This is the best cassava in Zambia! We shall be sharing these best practices methodology with our out-growers to help them improve their profitability.
We have now set-up our office in Kawambwa to register the out-growers. We have also recruited our first out-grower extension officers whose job it will be to tour local villages and directly recruit local communities into the project.
Their job is to initially register each individual in our computer system (via their hand-held device). And then they will be responsible for distributing the cassava stems and other inputs such as fertiliser to the registered-out growers.
They will also be responsible for passing on best practice to assist the out-growers to achieve the best yields and profits. And of course, arrange for harvesting and collection and payments.
To help the out-growers get started, we will be providing a micro-finance package for the cassava stems, inputs and where necessary land preparation services. These will be given as an advance at the time of planting the cassava stems, and we will deduct any costs from the sale of the cassava.
Honorary Out-Grower and Job Creation.
Today we have invited His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia, to become an honorary out-grower.
His Excellency has given us significant support for the project to help us get started so it is my great honour for us to together symbolically plant the first cassava for the out-grower program.
His support started when he instructed his team to visit a project we completed in Thailand, where we demonstrated both the energy security a country can gain from producing fuel-ethanol and the economic gain for the local farming communities.
He has given us his support because we have promised to deliver opportunities for a minimum of 20,000 cassava out-growers in Kawambwa and the Luapula province. And today, we have asked him to explain in his words why growing cassava will be profitable for the farmers of Luapula and strategic for the Country.
We will be creating a further 1000 jobs at the ethanol factory. We have committed to His Excellency that we will start construction this year. We will be ready to buy all the cassava produced by the out-growers in 2021 and start fuel-ethanol production at the same time.
When we started, our main objective was always to create a project that would directly benefit the farmers of Kawambwa and Luapula. We remain very committed to that objective.
Today is a significant milestone as we launch our cassava out-grower program and recruit our first farmers. We remain committed to signing up 20,000 out-growers initially and to start constructing the project this year for completion in early 2021.
This project will deliver upon the UN sustainability goals (or SDGs) to create wealth and opportunity for the people of Kawambwa and Luapula from farming cassava!
I sincerely thank you, Your Excellency for the support and conducive economic environment of your Government and for attending this launch and our team looks forward to registering you all as cassava out-growers!