Pan-African food and non-food biomass expert network unveiled

The “first” pan-African expert network on food and non-food biomass has been launched by African and German researchers.

BiomassNet aims to ensure that food security and environmental sustainability are not compromised in the development of new biomass uses. The scheme’s developers claim this will help to strengthen the emerging African bioeconomies.

The scheme was launched by Germany’s Center for Development Research ( ZEF) and the Ghana-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The project was also developed within the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded project BiomassWeb.

Under the umbrella of the BiomassWeb project, German and African scientists have addressed the question of how biomass can be used more effectively and efficiently in Africa.

‘Source of energy’

“Africa, especially south of the Sahara, needs biomass both as a source of food and as a source of energy and industrial raw materials,” said Manfred Denich, director of the BiomassWeb project at the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn (ZEF).

He added: “In view of the scarcity of agricultural land, this is hardly possible at the same time. “In order to provide solutions to this problem, we need an improved exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as discussions with local partners. Scientists, politicians, businesses and civil society must work together.”

According to estimates by the United Nations, almost two billion people will live in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050. This is almost a doubling compared to 2010. Considering the large population growth and the already noticeable impact of climate change, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are not able to produce enough food.

As a result of this, researchers in the BiomassWeb project are developing methods to improve food production and minimise post-harvest losses, such as spoilage.

They also explore ways in which innovative processing techniques that can increase the income of small-scale farmers which makes them less prone to crises. Therefore, inedible manioc peels can serve as a substrate for mushroom cultivation which achieve good prices on local markets. The same applies to the further processing of plantains to flour, and maize residue to bio-oil or syngas, according to the developers of the scheme.

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Bioenergy Insight.

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