By Leon Louw
The Niger Delta region in southern Nigeria is an area with a chequered history of exploitation. Now it is set to benefit from a renewable energy plant and an agriculture processing project providing electricity, jobs, and economic empowerment.
Nigerian company Asanita Agricultural Processing has secured funding to build a renewable energy power plant and a cassava processing to ethanol plant in Southern Nigeria. The project, located on a 40-hectare estate in Edo State in the Niger Delta region, will produce 50 000 litres per day of ethanol and deliver electricity for up to 300 homes. By creating hundreds of jobs for illegal migrant returnees and boosting the local economy, it also aims to discourage human tracking and illegal migration.
The power plant is designed to reduce carbon emission by converting all the biomass to energy. A combination of biogas produced from the effluent of the ethanol plant, and combustion of waste cassava peel and other agricultural waste, likes palm kernel shell, saw dust and rice husk, are readily available in Edo State. The system combusts the biomass with high oxygen and a triple filter system to guarantee that negligible smoke or CO2 is released to the atmosphere. The ash waste from the process is then used as fertiliser on the region’s cassava fields.
The Niger Delta region is infamous for its history of conflict between the international oil companies and residents due to the exploration and subsequent exploitation of local communities. Asanita is working closely with the Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking to improve the region through productive engagement, economic growth and prosperity for the most vulnerable in society especially women and the youths. Thousands of farmers in the region will benefit by making revenue from their waste, which will be used as fuel for the biomass power plant, while cassava farmers will be trained to improve the yield and can sell their produce to the plant.
The UK-backed project has been self-funded by the promoters through equity and commercial loans after the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office paid for the development of a business plan and the project feasibility studies to source debt funding. To further international collaboration, PIND Foundation (Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta) is working with Asanita to provide capacity building and training to smallholder farmers. This project is a poverty reduction initiative that has been endorsed by the regional government.
According to Victor Legogie, CEO of Asanita, the project will not only provide renewable energy to the region and support local communities, but it will also give economic hope to residents moving forward. “Providing energy is just one small part of this, the good it can do for the community and economic growth in the region is truly awe-inspiring. These kinds of initiatives should certainly be encouraged and promoted across Africa,” says Legogie.