ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME WITH SOUTHERN AND EASTERN AFRICA
PRE-FEASIBILITY: ETHANOL PRODUCTION FROM SWEET SORGHUM TO SUPPORT THE COMPREHENSIVE RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM IN SOUTH AFRICA [EEP SA 334]
This programme was jointly funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (lead donor), The Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) (http://eepafrica.org).
This pre-feasibility study aimed to lay the foundations for the medium term goal of developing a marketable renewable energy technology for the future. The aim was to develop and incorporate sustainable energy supply for households and agriculture in Africa, with a strong focus on nutrient/energy recycling within the system.
Overall Project Outputs
a) Assessment of the Capital Resources of the rural communities involved, assessing the needs for the development of a model for the integration of bio-refinery technologies for the generation of renewable energy from Sweet Sorghum to ethanol gel process with possible derivatives from process residues, e.g. methane. Further, the integration and development of Sustainable Micro Agri Processing (SMAP) and Dynamic Technologies as a modular, replicable and scalable processing systems.
b) The pre-feasibility study findings were used as an assessment tool for Renewable Energy (RE) poverty alleviation of rural communities of the Eastern Cape; the results of this study provide the necessary information for the further development of a full business feasibility study, with the view to the expansion of the value chain model to other communities in the region.
c) Farmers were trained in sustainable agrarian practices that contribute to long term profitability; the project aim was to lead to the effective empowerment of local farmers and communities in bio-fuel production – promoting the aims and objectives of the Comprehensive Rural Development Program.
d) Short Supply Chain marketing system: integration of a Participatory Guarantee System
e) Sustainable Micro Agri Processing (SMAP) application: the SMAP is a concept and technology applied in this project, contributing to the generation of an Epi Centre at the village level.
f) Fort Cox Agricultural College was an integral component (lecturers, students and project trainers) for the effective adoption of Agro-ecology as a science, concept and philosophy – essentially Sustainable Agricultural practices that will contribute to the creation of wealth – increasing Capital Asset Value in the region.
g) The effective adoption of Ethanol Gel as a safe, efficient and effective Renewable Energy for household cooking with a sustainable supply chain in place – the main objective of this project.
The project has had an impact on all sectors of society, farmers, tribal authorities, government institutions and College staff. Fort Cox Agricultural College, as a Higher Institution of learning, was involved at all levels of project activities, the Acting Principal, Mr. Araia Mulugheta, endorsed the EEP SA334 project presence and activities at the College and surrounding areas. The Science day, planned and managed by the staff at Fort Cox elicited a rapid response from the Ministry of Agriculture at Provincial level, the Deputy Director General received a report and feedback from Mr A. Mulugheta , at the behest of the MEC Agriculture, East Cape. The EEP SA334 project activities stimulated the interest of local farmers, who remembered Sweet Sorghum (by the older generation) as a popular crop, for its sugar cane like qualities and as a grain crop for food and beer. The economic response was measured and recognized once the crop was harvested and the gel produced for sale in the villages, combined with the impact of the Sweet Sorghum grain as a foodstuff, and the biomass as a fodder for livestock.
The project takes place in an impoverished region, with high potential agricultural resources, high population density, yet with very few existing employment opportunities.
The Eastern Cape region was chosen as the project focal point because of the abundant resources available, the demand for renewable energy, the requirement for sustainable development and a desperate need for skills and technology transfer to the people.
There are agrarian development initiatives in progress in the region, however, lacking sustainable penetration and transfer of knowledge and technology; an effective formula for small farmer development was needed. We experienced enthusiastic cooperation from the entities and farmers, encouraged by the prospect of the project coming to the region.
Sweet Sorghum was grown by farmers of the Ngcika Tribe, living in six villages under the jurisdiction of Chief of the Ngcika tribe; the farmers were organized into Primary Cooperatives at village level, and supported by a secondary cooperative – which provided mentorship and advice related to their agrarian activities.
The choice of site for small farmer out-growers was due to the proximity to Fort Cox and the need for change of land use that will made a positive impact on agro-ecology practices, economy of the region and community readiness for growth and development.