Tag Archives: Projects

Biomass the Oldest Renewable Biofuel – Developments

This clip from Wikipedia explains the comment in the title. Today when we talk biomass in the biofuel context we might think of switchgrass grown for ethanol, saw milling waste or soya beans for biodiesel production – but in fact the wood fire was the first example of a biomass fuel and is still a very important fuel in developing countries.


Biomass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.jpg

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This defines biomass as

Biomass refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Most commonly, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce biofuel, but it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.

Two recent stories illustrate what is happening in this area.


Biofuels brief_ Huge growth for UK biomass.jpg

from: Farmers Weekly Interactive
(click image for full story online)


This article considers biomass from recycled wood, processing co-products (palm kernel or distillers grains, for example), agricultural wastes (straw, chicken manure and so on) and energy crops.

It refers to announcements in recent months to develop more than 1,000MW of electricity generation from biomass. It also identifies increasing quantities of biomass being co-fired in large coal plants and used in industrial-sized operations. It expands on the activities of a number of companies.


Bioenergy pact between Europe and Africa.jpg

(click image for full story online)


This is an amazing story of a €150 million project to produce enough electricity for 90,000 households, by burning chicken manure, that went online in the beginning of September.

The plant is owned and operated by utility company Delta, cooperative DET, ZLTO and Austrian Energy & Environment A.G. (a consortium including Siemens Nederland N.V.). It will use approximately 440,000 tons of chicken manure a year, roughly one third of the total amount produced in the Netherlands.

It is interesting that while producing electricity the project solves a number of problems from complaints by the UKto the smell produced when Holland spread manure on their fields, to the release of Methane and the high cost of alternate disposal.

The ash from the plant will be used in fertilisers. There are opportunities for the manure from the remainder of Holland’s chickens and from other countries of Europe.

Projects to Enterprises

The co-operative was “changing projects into business enterprises, make more profits so people can get more money and change there living”.

This was, this morning as I was watching Ulimo, a magazine for emerging farmers in South Africa. The statement was by Sandile Adam the Project Leader of the Uitenhage & Dispatch Development Initiative.

This is what I was alluding to in my blog of 06/12/2007, where I referred to West African Projects which were unable to make a real difference.

I had personal experience of a similar thing when I started out looking at small business in South Africa in the early 1990s.

An obvious opportunity for small business was small scale (100s of loaves a day) bakeries. At the time most standard white and brown bread was baked in large regional bakeries, which delivered into the rural areas, sometimes as infrequently as every second day. These deliveries were to a very large number of local shops selling tens of loaves a day over very poor roads. Demand in these areas for bread and rice was low because of its high cost compared to the staple which is mealie meal.


We worked with a supplier of flour to develop a breadmix that took the technology out of the baking – ie the mix was adjusted to account for the particular bread flour characteristics, meaning that baking was a “bag of ingredients plus a bucked of water” process. Appropriate ovens were bought or built and some 20 projects established. The supplier of the mix implemented and managed the projects using one of the company’s master bakers.

I was involved in the set up of some of the early bakeries and facilitated an approach where an appropriate entrepreneur was established in business through the “offices” of the community’s development activities. At one particular bakery we were confronted by a different approach – the group preferred to share, the “salary” that was affordable by the business, between 24 bakers, rather than the 3 that the business model proposed. This was so that at least “everyone would get something”.

What was interesting, was that over the months I was able to compare these two models of running a bakery. The entrepreneurial one succeeded as the entrepreneur was able to put real effort into the activity. He did this because his “income” was directly related to what he did. It was also true that he had a sales point through his rural shop. In the group approach the “bakers” enjoyed the few dollars they earned and the comradeship of the bakery. They were not prepared to put an effort in to growing sales at they neither saw a real reward for effort nor a threat of loss of income for inactivity. This was because changes in the very small income were effectively insignificant. The small income was also not able to make a any real difference to their lives.

The project did not succeed in setting up large numbers of bakeries because of a change in the industry with the deregulation of baking leading to a boom in small urban bakeries. Also, as has been revealed lately, prices were controlled and manipulated by the large bakers giving the small baker of standard bread little opportunity.