When it comes to its vast natural resources, the African continent and its people have experienced a long and tragic history of exploitation. While changes and improvements have occurred in recent years, this immoral and unsustainable imbalance often continues to play out today.
Photo: “Thatching grass” (above) is one of the many abundantly available local feedstocks in use by Mozambique Renewables for its sustainable biomass export and economic development programs. (Source: MoRe)
But in this arena of natural resources, what if emerging trends in energy sources, global markets, international trade, and new technologies could come together to solve a problem that would benefit local communities and foreign consumers and investors alike?
That is the challenge that one innovative company, Mozambique Renewables (MoRe), is committed to addressing.
Mozambique, which is located in southeast Africa and bordered by the Indian Ocean, remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world despite being endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. The vast majority of its rural population lives on less than USD $1.25 a day and lacks basic services such as access to safe water, health facilities, and schools.
UK-based MoRe and its CEO, Patrick Munroe, have identified an opportunity presented by the traditional practice in Mozambique of burning crop by-products and grasses in the dry season, which has contributed to toxic air pollution and the degradation of arable land across the country. MoRe believes that this situation is ripe for transformation and has set out to leverage the abundance of crop residues, weed species, and giant grasses in Mozambique and to turn them into a valuable, truly sustainable, and high volume biomass fuel -- as an alternative to coal and hydrocarbons -- for energy uses, worldwide.
By doing so, MoRe envisions the creation of an entirely new rural economy that can in turn benefit hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in Africa.
Photo: MoRe’s women partner farmers in Micolene, a village in the northern province of Nampula in Mozambique. (Source: MoRe)
Mozambique and MoRe are well positioned to respond to the increasing global demand for biomass as an energy source. For example, in the UK, the demand for biomass for electricity generation currently exceeds 5 million tons (Mt) per year, of which much is sourced from abroad, usually from forests in the United States and in Europe. In Europe, the EU’s National Renewable Energy Action Plans for member states also provide an opportunity for African exported biomass to support climate policy objectives as well expand the use and prevalence of domestic local renewable energy sources and users.
Among the abundant biomass crops in Mozambique -- that have been until now regarded as unusable weeds and have been burned off, but which now are being accorded significant commercial value and will be harvested by local communities and farmers -- include cotton stalks, sorghum stems, giant grasses such as “elephant grass” and thatching straw, and sugarcane bagasse.
Photo: Mozambique Renewables engaging in community consultations in Mozambican villages. (Source: MoRe)
Currently operating primarily in the northern province of Nampula, MoRe has met with village communities, including farmers, leaders, and chiefs and with local government officials to listen to challenges associated with lack of employment and environmental damage. As a result, it has formed partnerships with local farmers who will grow and sell their crops -- as opposed to burning them -- to MoRe for their transformation into plant-based energy “pellets.” These pellets, which in turn can be used to power customers’ biomass boilers, release carbon dioxide that they had previously absorbed in their plant/grass form, effectively creating a natural carbon neutral “capture and release cycle.” Global markets are increasingly recognizing the attractiveness of biomass pellets, which are known to have a wide range of uses, from cooking to heating to electricity generation.