Novozymes pioneers food-energy venture in Mozambique

Novozymes and environmental venture group, CleanStar Ventures, are to jointly establish an integrated food-energy business in Mozambique that will replace thousands of charcoal-burning cookstoves with cleaner ethanol stoves.

In addition to safeguarding lives from dangerous charcoal smoke, the business – called CleanStar Mozambique – is intended to increase farmers’ incomes by up to 500%, save thousands of acres of forest every year, and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CleanStar Mozambique will work with smallholder farmers to implement sustainable farming practices, create a food and ethanol cooking fuel production facility, and lay the groundwork for economically and ecologically sustainable communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The business will address a range of problems, including land degradation, poor health, and energy poverty.

“Agriculture in the developing world holds an enormous potential that can be realised with the assistance of biotechnology,” says Novozymes Executive Vice President Thomas Nagy. “Through this partnership, local communities in Africa will be able to produce more food and energy while at the same time improving their health, restoring forests, cleaning the air, and growing the economy.”

Cut charcoal smoke and deforestation

Under CleanStar Mozambique’s business model, thousands of farmers in Mozambique will have the opportunity to transition from charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture to cultivating a diverse range of crops and trees, which will significantly improve their income and nutrition levels while rehabilitating degraded soils and enhancing biodiversity.

Whatever the families do not consume themselves, they will sell to CleanStar Mozambique. The company will produce a range of food products as well as an ethanol-based cooking fuel made from cassava, which will be sold into urban markets.

Throughout Africa, more than 80% of urban families buy charcoal to cook their food. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) there is evidence to suggest that indoor air pollution from solid fuel use – including charcoal – may be damaging to a person’s health.

Charcoal usage is also a major driver in the mass deforestation across Africa, where every year hundreds of millions of trees are cleared to produce charcoal. It is intended that by 2014, CleanStar Mozambique will supply 20% of local households in Mozambique’s capital Maputo with a clean and competitive alternative to charcoal, which is intended to improve family health and protect 9,000 acres of indigenous forest per year.

“This business model can be replicated and scaled throughout the developing world,” says Thomas Nagy. “With CleanStar Mozambique, we hope to show how biotechnology can catalyze the development of agriculture, food, and ethanol industries in developing countries, and create new bio-based markets that benefit local communities and the environment.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries’ food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty.

CleanStar Ventures and Novozymes have partnered with a number of other companies in the business. Most notably, the process design and construction company ICM is providing the food and ethanol cooking fuel production facility. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is in advanced discussions with Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures about serving as Carbon Finance Associate in order to help maximize the monetary value of the project’s carbon emission reductions.