Domestic fuel in Mozambique: from charcoal to cassava
Along a dirt road in Mozambique's Sofala province, a long line of men on bicycles stretches into the distance, each carrying an impossibly big bag of charcoal strapped to his bike. The journey to town takes two days from where they or their families cut down trees and put logs in earth-covered pits to smoulder, to produce the charcoal.
It is a common sight in a country where 80% of people rely on charcoal for cooking. Each year the charcoal sellers' journey gets longer as locals and foreign logging companies chop down indigenous forests, the source of coal in this southern African nation.
However, breaking the country's dependence on “dirty” fuel is the aim of a for-profit venture called CleanStar that began selling ethanol cooking stoves in the capital, Maputo, this year. The ethanol is made from cassava, or mandioca, which is grown in virtually every backyard here. “Interesting. The alcohol they use comes from mandioca, a product that is produced a lot here. That is good,” says one curious potential customer, Maputo taxi driver Milton Bilale.