By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
Smallholder farmers in Africa will soon have a valuable use for crop and livestock waste that traditionally is either left to rot or burn.
Innovative bio-based technologies identified through the EU-funded BIO4Africa project is ready for deployment at sites in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda, just 12 months since the project kick-off.
It means that residues like cassava peel, cashew apples, groundnut shells, coffee husks, and animal manure will now be integrated into circular agri-food systems to create alternative sources of income for the farmers, and improve food security and reduce vulnerability to climate change.
In a continent where continuous cropping has caused a massive nutrient loss in around 25% of productive land, the improvement potential is enormous.
Waste decomposition in open dumps is responsible for almost 7% of Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Co-creation is a core driver Comprising 25 partner organizations from Africa and Europe, the BIO4Africa consortium has investigated farmer needs, evaluated biomass availability, and screened bio-based technologies during the project’s first year. Cost-benefit analyses have confirmed the commercial viability of the technologies that have been selected for the trial.
At workshops held in each of the four focus countries, local farmers and farmer associations, agri-entrepreneurs, authority representatives and other stakeholders gave the technologies the green light.
“Local participation in co-defining and validating the technologies is a core BIO4Africa driver and will remain essential to the adaptation and implementation of the technologies.
“We expect more than 300 farmers and farmer groups to test them in real productive conditions at the sites in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda.
“It has also given us an idea about how well these bio-based technologies are already known and what we must do to continue raising awareness of their benefits,” explained Jean-Michel Commander, BIO4Africa project coordinator.
First technology installed At the test site in Uganda, the work to install the first technology – a green biorefinery – is well underway.
The biorefinery will turn leaves and other plant residues into concentrated protein cakes or powder for livestock feed. Initial feed trials show that protein cakes can increase the milk yield of dairy cows by 25%.
Together, the selected technologies cover a range of opportunities to turn residues into easily transportable, marketable products. These include the production of feed pellets and densified complete feed blocks for livestock and aquaculture, biomass briquettes for fueling stoves and producing biogas, and biochar for water filtration and soil improvement. Emerging bioplastic and biocomposite technology will be tested at a lab scale.
“From our farmer survey, we know that lack of capital will be a major barrier to implementation. For this reason, one of our tasks during the first year of BIO4Africa has been to identify possible funding opportunities to help farming communities get started,” Jean-Michel Commander said.
“Success will depend on how easily farming communities can take the technology into use and bring these new products to market. These are key focus areas as BIO4Africa moves forward.”
BIO4Africa, comprising 13 partners in Africa and 12 partners in the EU, BIO4Africa is a four-year project to transfer simple, small-scale and robust bio-based technology to rural Africa.
The objective is to empower African farmers and farming communities to produce a wider range of high-value products using local biomass. By developing new business opportunities, the project will support farmers in making more from less and diversifying their incomes. Circular business models will ensure social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
The vision is to contribute to long-term improvements in livelihoods, food security and community resilience, and a reduction in rural migration.