Sunbird Bioenergy Africa launches cassava out-grower programme for bioethanol project

Sunbird Bioenergy Africa has commenced work on a cassava out-grower programme to provide sustainable feedstock for a bioenergy project expected to eventually produce 120 million litres per year of bioethanol for Zambia’s ethanol-fuel blending programme.

The move came soon after Sunbird presented at the Luapula Expo, which was organised to promote the investment potential of the region. Speaking at the conference, Richard Bennett, Sunbird’s CEO, highlighted that the new project was of strategic importance 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, according to a statement from Sunbird.

Bennett also noted out that for the project to reach its full capacity, cassava production in Luapula Province would have to increase, something his company was working to achieve through developing a cassava nursery to produce high quality planting materials for out-growers in the province, appointing Vana to design and implement the cassava out-grower programme, and a microfinance initiative with fintech specialist MyBucks to help fund out-growers wanting to participate in the project.

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 develops and operates large-scale bioenergy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company’s flagship project in Sierra Leone has the capacity to produce 32 MW of power and 85 million litres of ethanol.

Regarding the company’s latest project, 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”.



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