Cassava Tapped For Clean Cooking Fuel

When’s the last time you enjoyed a bowl of tapioca pudding? Whenever it was, I’ll bet the last thing you thought about was the production of biofuels in Southeast Africa. But that’s just what the farmers who regularly grow and harvest cassava, the woody shrub from which tapioca pearls are made, have been thinking.

Just a few days ago, Mozambique became home to the world’s first sustainable cooking fuel facility. The factory will be dedicated to producing ethanol-based cooking fuel that can be used with CleanStar Mozambique’s indoor cookstoves. By providing both the stove and the clean-burning fuel to power it, the company hopes to eliminate dirty cooking fuels that pollute indoor air and cause a plethora of health and environmental problems.

cleanstar cookstove

image via CleanStar Mozambique

Based in Dondo in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, the facility will produce 2 million liters per year of ethanol-based cooking fuel from surplus cassava supplied to the company by local farmers following CleanStar’s sustainable farming systems, according to a recent release [PDF]. In doing so, they will be able to use Mozambique’s rising urban demand for food and cooking fuel to drive sustainable rural development and environmental restoration, the project developer claims.

According to CleanStar, the system operates as a nicely closed loop, with the company providing participating farmers with basic inputs and technical assistance, then purchasing their surpluses at its rural agricultural centers in communities around the facility. The cassava is converted to ethanol, while beans, sorghum, pulses and soya are processed into packaged food products for sale in Mozambique’s cities.

The company says both the stove and biofuel have already been embraced by the community. “City women are tired of watching charcoal prices rise, carrying dirty fuel, and waiting for the day that they can afford a safe gas stove and reliable supply of imported cylinders,” says Thelma Venichand, CleanStar’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “They are ready to buy a modern cooking device that uses clean, locally-made fuel, performs well and saves them time and money.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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