Sustainable ethanol cooking fuel plant opens in Mozambique

By Holly Jessen | May 18, 2012

An ICM Inc. designed and built cooking fuel ethanol plant is now open in Dondo, Mozambique—providing area residents with a cleaner alternative to cooking with charcoal. The facility will convert surplus cassava supplied by local farmers into 2 MMly (about 500,000 gallons a year) of ethanol-based cooking fuel.

“Growing up on a farm, it was taught that wealth comes from the ground, crops are cultivated—nourishment is provided and the promise of agriculture is unleashed through producing more food and a stronger local economy,” said ICM’s CEO Dave Vander Griend in a prepared statement. “We believe passionately in improving the health, wealth, and environment of the Mozambique people.” As of May 18 Vander Griend was in Mozambique and had attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the plant. The facility was inaugurated by Federal Minister of Agriculture, Jose Pacheco, Novozymes said.

The ethanol production plant is part of CleanStar Mozambique’s integrated food and energy business. The company was formed in 2010 by Novozymes and CleanStar Ventures. During the last year, farmers have been transitioned from slash-and-burn farming to agriculture techniques that cultivate trees and crops synergistically. Besides cassava for ethanol production, local farmers also provide beans, sorghum, pulses and soybeans. Pre-sales of CleanStar’s cook stove and cooking fuel have started in some shops in Maputo and will expand later on this year. “We never estimated this much customer demand,” said Thelma Venichand, CleanStar’s director of sales and marketing in a Novozymes press release. “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. They are ready to buy a modern cooking device that uses clean, locally-made fuel, performs well and saves them time and money.”

ICM’s engineers designed specialty equipment components for the ethanol plant, ICM welders fabricated the pieces and the company’s project management team directed the plant’s construction. Three members of ICM’s staff traveled to Mozambique earlier this year to direct local laborers. While there they wrote emails to ICM employees about how important the ethanol plant was to the poverty-stricken people of that area. A large amount of the people of Mozambique’s limited money is spent on charcoal to use as a cooking fuel. Vander Griend was shocked to learn that cooking indoors with charcoal is the equivalent of each child smoking two packs of cigarettes daily. “Through unique collaborations like this, we can come together to improve African agriculture and potentially replicate this model throughout other developing countries in the world,” he said.

For more information, see and a past EPM story written about the project.