Trading Charcoal for Sustainably Farmed Biofuel in Africa (Video)


Photo: Novozymes

In developing nations around the world, millions of families use charcoal for cooking every day. And they often cook in poorly ventilated homes, exposing everyone inside to dangerous indoor air pollution. Furthermore, farmers often engage in slash-and-burn operations to obtain said charcoal. This too, is a problem.

So here's the Danish biotech firm Novozymes's pitch: Help those families sustainably farm for biomass -- and for food -- instead. Get them more efficient stoves. And then, set up a network so that the farmers can trade their surplus crop for a profit on the market. I'll let Novozymes Vice President Thomas Nagy explain:

The plan described above is part of a partnership with CleanStar Ventures announced at this year's Clinton Global Initiative. It's a for-profit venture, as farmers will sell a portion of the excess biofuel to the company. CleanStar will also open a plant in Maputo, Mozambique that will process the biofuel en masse and distribute it in urban areas as an alternative to charcoal.

Such biotech operations in the developing world are sure to make plenty of folks wary -- Novozymes has ties to Monsanto, after all -- and the market arrangement outlined herein may draw comparisons to the workings of the World Bank.

But the underlying logic -- that turning to sustainable agriculture and using more efficient cookstoves is good for everyone -- nonetheless seems sound.

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