Thursday, 16 March 2017

Processing ethanol from cassava

By Hope Mafaranga

Most of people know ethanol in medical terms while others know it in alcohol.   Many think it is a concussion that comes from a chemical not known to many.
However ethanol plays an important aspect in pharmaceuticals, beauty products and brewing.
It is one of the things government has to spend tax-payers money importing it yet, locally available resources like Cassava, Maize, and Sugarcane ar

e also the main potential in producing ethanol and it can reduce on this expense.
 At the moment government imports one million litters of ethanol every year. Locally a litter goes for sh6,000 but the government’s expense is much high when you put into consideration, transportation, taxes and clearance. 
  Uganda imports
The director of Kamtech Logistical Uganda Ltd Tobby Arecha said they have invested over USD1.6M into the plant to process 150 tunes of cassava daily  which produces 4,000 litres of ethanol.
“We produce only 10 percent of what government requires and getting more actors in the business will go along away in implementing government’s efforts and also reduce on its cost of importing ethanol,” he said.
 Uplifting the standard of the farmers
Found in Barlwala village, Adekokwok sub-county in Lira district, the company buys cassava chips from 8,000 farmers from Teso, Lango, Bunyoro, Acholi and West Nile.
 The company also employs 65 workers including scientists and chemists and it hopes to employ more 65 people once the store which is under construction is complete.
The farmers were trained and empowered by International Fertiliser Development Center (IFDC) with aim of adding value to their produce and complete the value chain.
 Ronald Lemo the IFDC regional coordination said, when they started training farmers, they had to look for ways of ensuring they get market.
He also said ethanol processing has increased the price of cassava in the region and changed farmers’ method of farming from substance farming into commercial farmers.
“In 2015, before Kamtech logistics Uganda Ltd started processing ethanol, farmers used to sell a bag of 100 kilogrammes  of dry cassava chips at sh 20,000 but  now the price has shot up to sh85,000 per bag.   Now farmers look at farming as a business and this has changed their standards of living,” he said.
 He adds   ethanol processing in the region from cassava has also reduced of the market players who used to cheat farmers.
“ There was a lot of middle men taking fresh cassava from farmers but this had reduced  because we gave farmers solar drier and they dry their cassava and bring it to the processing plant and get better prices,’ he added. 
Orecha said they are hopeful they will sustain production because cassava is not a sessional plant.
“Cassava can spend three years in the garden and therefore we are assured to have the supply throughout and now farmers’ plant at different periods to sustain us,” he said.
How ethanol
Apollo Serembe  of the company’s production Manager, said there are four stages which ethanol can be process to meet the Uganda National Bureau if standard requirement.
“From chips, to power, fermentation and then we get out final product of 96 percent,” he said.
Teopista Adeng one of the cassava farmers said the plant has enabled farmers to get more money and improve on their income.
“ I can never sell fresh cassava anymore because if I take it to the plant , I get more money,” she said.
Managing waste
The district has given the company land where to expose the waste from, while others is turned into manure which they give back to their farmers and make animal feeds as well.
“The starting point was not easy because Umeme refused to give us the electricity for nine months , we had no buy our own line which is a high voltage and this caused us a delay in production,” he said.
Scaling up
 With support from IFDC, they has installed a solar dries with a capacity of drying up four tonnes of cassava in three hours and is constructing a multi-million stores  that will store more than ten tonnes of dry cassava.
Health dangers
Dr. Paul Lubega a senior medical officer at International medical centre said if misused, ethanol can cause health havoc. He said it can damage the liver and blindness.
“You have seen people with read lips, it’s a sign of misusing ethanol and the damage can be worse if not detected early. It affects the eyes leading to permanent blindness and it can total destroy the liver and it fails to work,” he said.

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