Novozymes Pioneers Food–Energy Venture in Africa

On September 21, Novozymes announced its investment in CleanStar Mozambique at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. CleanStar Mozambique, a company founded by Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures, 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.

Clean ethanol cookstovesClean ethanol cookstoves (Photo: Business Wire)

“Agriculture in the developing world holds an enormous potential that can be realized with the assistance of biotechnology,” said 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 innovative 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,” said 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.”

CleanStar Ventures and Novozymes have partnered with a number of other companies in the business. Most notably, the process design and construction company ICM, Inc. 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.

FAO: Integrated food and energy systems reduce poverty

Since President Bill Clinton established CGI in 2005, the organization has convened global leaders in government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Each CGI member makes a commitment – a concrete proposal to address a major global challenge – and collaborates with other members to translate that plan into meaningful, measurable results. This is Novozymes’ first CGI commitment.

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.

Source – CSR AfricaMillicent Njeri / Press Release