Monthly archives: November, 2014

Cassava mobile processing unit

Cassava is a woody shrub with a starchy edible root which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The root has a brown fibrous skin and snowy white interior flesh. This versatile root, native to Brazil, can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried or mashed and goes by many other names such as yuca, manioc, mandioca, yucca root. To Americans it is better known as tapioca. Because of cassava’s short shelf-life after harvest, a mobile processing unit was developed to address the issue of spoilage.
The unit was rolled out in a few African countries.
Millions of people depend on cassava as a staple part of their diets in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  It is mainly grown by poor farmers, many of them women, often on marginal land. For those people and their families, cassava had been vital for both food security and income generation.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has promoted cassava’s potential to move from its status as “a poor people’s food into a 21st century crop”, pointing out that trials have shown that higher yield can be achieved everywhere, from Vietnam to Colombia.
International investors have also taken a liking to the cassava in several African countries. For instance, in Mozambique, www.freshfruitportal.com looked at how commercial practices and technology have transformed the prospects of this starch-rich tuber.
Under the title ‘the cassava revolution’, private firms in Mozambique have in recent years attempted to rapidly commercialise the production of cassava which is the country’s key subsistence crop, according to the freshfruit portal.
“The idea is to create more efficient supply chains for small and medium-size producers in order to feed growing private demand for cassava in products such as beer, processed food and ethanol,” it says.
In Nigeria, more than 38 million tons of fresh cassava roots are produced each year – apparently the largest harvest in the world.
However, the crop is not widely grown there for commercial markets given its short life-span. Deterioration begins within 48 hours, making it difficult for processing companies to collect and process the tubers.

Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit (AMPU)
Peter Bolt, founder of the Dutch Agricultural Development & Trading Company (DADTCO), has addressed the issue of cassava spoilage by developing new technology that brings the cassava processing factory to the farmers – the Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit (AMPU).
DADTCO’s aim is to improve rural development by creating guaranteed markets for crops grown by smallholder farmers.
The patented AMPU is an integrated mobile cassava root processing plant housed in a modified 13m container with a self-contained power supply. It can be moved to the different areas where the cassava is produced and normally stays at a particular site for three to four months before moving to the next village.
The technology processes perishable cassava roots into a high-quality ‘cake’, an intermediate product containing 45% to 50% less water than the roots which can be stored for six months. This mobile unit also significantly lowers the cost of transporting cassava.
Once the cassava root has been sourced from smallholder farmers, processing takes place within 24 hours of harvesting. Processing in the AMPU starts with washing and peeling the roots, followed by chopping, rasping and de-watering, before producing the cassava cake.
Trucks then transport the cake to a centralised drying and refinery plant, also known as a flash dryer, for further processing, as well as to syrup plants or breweries.
Cassava cake can be used in numerous agricultural and industrial products, including SABMiller’s Impala beer, a new product that currently uses all the cassava cake produced by DADTCO in Mozambique. DADTCO is operating AMPUs in Ghana, Nigeria and Mozambique, and is planning to roll it out to 27 other African countries.

AMPU for brewing beer
Last year, the Modern Ghana Daily Guide reported that the country’s Accra brewery launched cassava beer.
The beer, which sells at GH¢1.20 (33USc/R4) per bottle resulted from several years of research to overcome challenges of processing and brewing cassava.
According to the Daily Guide, DADTCO Cassava Processing Ghana Ltd and Accra Brewery Ltd (ABL) brews cassava bought from over 1,500 farmers, instead of from commercial suppliers.
“Owing to the annual surplus in cassava production of about 40%, which fails to get to the market due to the rapid deterioration of cassava and its high water content, SABMiller, an international brewer and mother company of ABL, in partnership with DADTCO, found a way of brewing cassava into beer,” Daily Guide reported.
Accra Brewery is the second brewery in the SABMiller group to launch a cassava beer, after Mozambique in 2011.
This project is part of SABMiller’s ‘Farming Better Future’ programme which comprises agricultural programmes across Africa.
Gregory Metcalf, managing director of ABL, said the initiative will create a ‘virtuous circle’ in which consumers will be able to afford high quality beer and offer smallholder cassava farmers a guaranteed market for their produce.
ABL is also the producer of Chibuku Shake Shake, a replica of a local Ghanaian drink made from sorghum.
The cassava project
The Cassava+ (plus) project (2009-2013) was funded by the Schokland Fund, which was established by Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Netherlands.
It was implemented by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and DADTCO with the goal being to provide a guaranteed market for smallholder cassava farmers. It also aimed at helping smallholder cassava farmers’ move from subsistence to commercial production.
The DGIS is responsible for the Netherlands’ development cooperation policy and for its coordination, implementation and funding.
IFDC is a public international organisation that focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries.  – Aarifah Nosarka

 



More investments for Africa

Symrise has joined the trend of affirming that Africa is the new global business destination. The multinational has strengthened its presence on the continent by launching a subsidiary in Lagos, Nigeria.
The new Nigerian office will include sales and marketing functions as well as application laboratories. Symrise will use the market insights from its presence in Nigeria to serve both local and multinational customers with products tailored for the West African market.
Nigeria has been present and active in the Nigerian market for about 30 years, albeit without a centralised office.
Says Dr Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, CEO of Symrise AG: “We can look back on a long history in the Nigerian market by both our segments, Scent & Care and Flavour & Nutrition. During that time we have gathered a deep understanding of local markets by continuously sending fragrance and flavour experts to Nigeria. This has also built long-term relationships with customers. Establishing our own company in Nigeria is thus a logical step.
“With about 175 million inhabitants, abundant mineral and other resources, Nigeria has the potential to become one of the top 10 economies in the world. Already today, the country is Africa’s largest economy, one of the fastest growing on the continent, and seen as gateway to West Africa.
“Symrise has also successfully grown its representation in Nigeria for over three decades through our longstanding agent, Allied Technol Systems Ltd. Now, we have decided to intensify our presence and commitment and to establish our own legal entity, while continuing to be supported by and collaborating with Allied Technol. Symrise is known as a company with a long-term set of goals”
Officially launched on the  15 October 2014, Symrise Nigeria Ltd is situated in a business park in the Ikeja suburb of
Lagos State.
“With its local infrastructure, the company will be able to offer customers closer support as well as faster, more direct dialogue to anticipate and satisfy their needs and market requirements. There is also much potential for further development. The company in Lagos will also enjoy support through frequent visits from experts and managers from the Europe, Africa, Middle East Region,” said  Bertram.
Symrise has committed to maintaining its high internal standards in quality and regulatory throughout its organisation, as well as its strict code of compliance with domestic legal requirements.

More regions covered by Symrise
In Madagascar, on 13 October 2014, Symrise opened a 3,500m extraction facility for sustainable vanilla production at Benavony, following an investment of approximately €3million. The plant allows every step in the processing of vanilla to be performed locally for the first time.
The new facility has capacity for fermentation, extraction, analysis,  quality control and the proper storage of vanilla extracts.
The site, which has been completely newly constructed, has a total of 36ha of space. In the medium term, Symrise plans to process additional important raw materials here, such as vetiver, an important and popular fragrance for producing perfumes.
Says Dr Heinz-Jürgen Bertram, CEO of Symrise AG: “The company has been active in Madagascar, where 80% of the world’s vanilla is grown, since 2005. This site is a further milestone in Symrise’s strategy of establishing the entire value chain for vanilla in its source country and in accordance with strict sustainability criteria. “With this new plant, we are completing the cycle of responsible vanilla production on site. Our vanilla activities in Madagascar are the best evidence that business success and sustainability go hand in hand. Our investment of roughly €3million is a clear statement that we are directly committed long-term to the country, its people and vanilla farming.”
Symrise works directly with about 7,000 vanilla farmers in 90 villages in north-eastern Madagascar to source natural vanilla as well as guarantee traceability. More than 30,000 people benefit directly and indirectly in terms of income, health, education and training, according to Symrise. In addition, the organisation reinvests 10 % of its yields from vanilla operations into Madagascar in the form of education and training, reforestation and the sustainable cultivation of various agricultural raw materials on the island.
Says Alain Bourdon, head of Symrise Madagascar: “Benavony is a strong symbol for our sustainable approach in Madagascar. We produce energy by burning acacia wood and bamboo. We purchase the bamboo from village residents, providing them with additional income. At the same time, residents are trained in the sustainable cultivation and harvesting of bamboo. As part of our reforestation programme, in 2014 approximately 80,000 acacia and 50,000 intsia bijuga seedlings were planted. The same number of trees will also be planted in 2015.”

Symrise: Tel +27 11 281 3000;
bernhard.kott@symrise.com;
www.symrise.com



Hydroponic farming becomes the new viable alternative in Kenya

A recently introduced fodder growing technology is fast rising in the Kenya, offering farmers year round supply of nutritious green fodder, grown for just eight days and producing up to 50kgs of the fodder in a 20 by 10 feet space, enough to feed 20 mature cows or 120 goats all year round. Labelled as hydroponics technology for its ability to grow fodder and other crops without the soil, the project has been hailed as a revolutionary way of farming coming at a time when land is continually becoming limited as a result of a growing population. Hydroponics, according to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), is a subset of hydro culture, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Says the council: “Translated directly, hydroponics means plants working (growing) in water. The word ‘hydroponics’ is derived from two Greek words: ‘hydro’ – meaning water, and ‘ponos’ – meaning labour. A modern definition of hydroponics: A system where plants are grown in growth media other than natural soil. All the nutrients are dissolved in the irrigation water and are supplied at a regular basis to plants.  In South Africa, hydroponic vegetable production is almost always done under protection.”
The Kenyan technology involves the germination of seeds in nutrient rich solutions instead of soil to produce a grass and root combination that is very high in nutrition. According to Alex Nderi, an advocate of hydroponics in the eastern African country this method of pasture production requires far less space and produces pasture of superior value, “A typical greenhouse containing trays stacked on shelves is used and the trays are put under controlled environmental conditions in a six to 10 day cycle. A 144m greenhouse can hold about 1800 trays and produce an average of 1200kg per day using only 800 to 1000 liters of water. This amount of fodder can be used to supplement 100 heads of cattle or 500 heads of sheep or goats per day.”
“Its ability to save water even though the crops or fodder is grown in water is its biggest advantage. For example, it requires a farmer one to two litre of water to produce one kilo of fodder compared to 80 to 90 liters to produce one kilo of green grass. This is a solution to the frequent droughts and the need for expensive irrigation systems” said Nderi.
The content are fed as food and grain such as barley, wheat, maize and others. Barley is the grain of choice due to its superior performance. Grains develop roots and green shoots to form a dense mat. Carbon dioxide injection cuts the growing time to four days and increase production by up to 25%. Furthermore, hydroponic   technology is said to save farmers the agony of expensive fodder storage facilities because farmers are guaranteed a constant supply of high quality fodder. “Unlike hay and silage which loses their nutritive value over time, the quality of hydroponic fodder is always guaranteed.  Farmers therefore know exactly the amount to feed and the amount of yield to expect. And since it is grown naturally, there are no antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides or herbicides in the hydroponics fodder feed,” Nderi added.
An additional benefit for farmers is the relatively cheaper initial investment and the good returns on investment, “estimates indicate a cost of Sh4000 to produce a tonne of fodder which is four to eight times less compared to using grain over a 90 to 120 day period. To grow green feed conventionally, the farmer needs to incur costs towards buying insecticides, fertilizers and paying labourers to cultivate and harvest.” explains Nderi.

Agrotunnels International Limited
tel +27 73 352 0083
Formulation Centre Kenya
 tel +27 72 295 6647
Agriculture Research Council
tel: +27 (0)12 842 4017 iaeinfo@arc.agric.za   

Advantages and disadvantages of hydroponic vegetable production
Advantages of hydroponics
•    Hydroponically produced vegetables can be of high quality and need little washing.
•    Soil preparation and weeding is reduced or eliminated.
•    It is possible to produce very high yields of vegetables on a small area because an environment optimal for plant growth is created. All the nutrients and water that the plants need are available at all times.
•    One does not need good soil to grow vegetables.
•    Water is used efficiently.
•    Pollution of soil with unused nutrients is greatly reduced
Disadvantages of hydroponics
•    Hydroponic production is management, capital and labour intensive.
•    A high level of expertise is required.
•    Daily attention is necessary.
•    Specially formulated, soluble nutrients must always be used.
•    Pests and diseases remain a big risk.
•    Finding a market can be a problem.



The changing face of packaging

With consumer patterns changing throughout the continent, it is inevitable that the demand for more practical and region appropriate packaging will rise.
In the Population Reference Bureau (2012): 2012 World Population Data study conducted in 2012, it is indicated that Africa’s population is expected to grow from 809 million in 2011 to 1,700 million by 2050. The middle class alone is anticipated to grow by 75 million from 32 million people in 2009 to an expected 107 million in 2030. W
ith a growing middle class come various changes, amongst others would be the change in dietary preferences. Speaking at the food & drink technology Africa conference this year, Martina Claus of VDMA, a machinery for the processing of vegetable raw material company, explained the changing consumption patterns, “Milk, eggs and meat (Beef, mutton and pork) have definitely gained popularity and are anticipated to continue being the popular choices. Consumer expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages between 2004 and 2013 have increased by +250% in Nigeria, +133% in South Africa and by +230% in Kenya. So this is a definite contributing factor to the type of packaging innovation.”
Shawn Henning of BMI Research explained the current packaging market, the growing trends and the decline of certain applications. According to the BMI study, paper and board sector volume grew by 3.4% in 2013 with the main growth contributors being corrugated and cores and tubes growing by 3.5% and 9.9% respectively. The growth of quick service restaurants contributed to the recorded carton board growth. Says Henning: “The rapid growth of fast food culture in South Africa is definitely fuelling the demand for folding carbon and paper. Paper sacks declined slightly by 0.2% from last year as they continued to compete with plastic sacks and other flexible plastic packaging for volume share.” This view is supported by Kiril Dimitrov, Woolworths Foods packaging manager. “There is a rise of single person households. This simply means that a person is looking to economise yet experience the convenience of having ready to go meals. Our present day consumers want increasing ease and accessibility, they want to save resources such as time, energy and effort while decreasing their frustration levels.” Dimitrov furthermore explains that factors such as portion sizing, ergonomic sizing and designs, easy-to-dispense and/or open as well as functionalities like being able to re-close and reseal the product along with the product being microwaveable and ovenable are currently driving the packaging design market. “New on our shelves is the Woolworths ‘Easy to Cook’ packaging developed for convenience, using flexible material: it is portion sized, microwaveable & ovenable, keeps the seafood and sauces separate, sealed in two compartments. The central dividing seal has been designed to rupture in a controlled way, allowing the contents to mix during cooking. It also has a second vent in the main compartment which opens to maintain right pressure in the bag, and seals only open at certain temperatures so food is cooked to absolute perfection in just a few minutes. This is the art of convenience that consumers want.”
Total plastic (both rigids and flexibles) packaging grew by 2.5% in 2013, the study revealed. Flexible plastic however is growing at a higher rate than rigid plastic. “Packed product and packaging imports slowed down in this period indirectly affecting local production growth. Imports, however, are expected to maintain a presence in the future due to international production of certain grades that are not manufactured locally,” explains Henning. A case study was done on the Woolworths honey PET bottle where the bottle was redesigned to an ergonomic shape which made dispensing easier and was simpler to open and was re-closable. “Both options were available on our shelves for a set period and through the consumer choices it was evident that the new ergonomic design is preferred.”
The BMI research furthermore showed that metals showed the largest tonnage decline compared to other packaging markets. According to Henning, food cans, the most common usage for metals have declined due to packed product imports and supressed fishing quotas and substitution. Drums lost share to other packaging types such as plastic. Says Henning, “Although it may seem that there is an increase of beverage cans on the market with some ciders like Savannah and the Hunters range from Distell introducing their can ranges, in the bigger market overview beverage cans have dropped by 8% as most of these metal cans are replaced by aluminium cans. The metal industry is expected to decline further until the conversion to aluminium is complete in 2015, then it is forecast to stabilise.” Dimitrov adds that increasing consumer awareness of sustainability could be contributing to the fall off of metal as a packaging choice. “Sustainability concerns will dominate packaging innovation agenda over cost factors. Plant based renewable resins (PLA, PET, PE, PP, etc.) are becoming available and will start to be used for packaging in future. Glass, like metals, will come under further pressure of substitution with plastic. “This industry however is expected to recover as Nampak will be launching a glass bottle furnace in Roodekop, Gauteng,” says Henning.  Flexible formats, says Dimitrov, will continue to replace rigid structures while light weight and cost-effectiveness will give way in importance to renewable and recyclable materials.
“Overall the industry has seen an increase in number of units produced, though total tonnage produced is under pressure as alternate packaging materials that are light in weight are used. The South African economy is struggling and consumer spending is under pressure with living cost increases, which have put the packaging industry under pressure as different materials compete for market and volume share. The local packaging industry is expected to have mixed results in the future with continued increases for some sectors while others, like metal, may decline in volume production for the short to medium term,” Henning concludes.
– Kgaogelo Mamabolo

BMI Research tel +27 11 615 7000; www.bmi.co.za
Woolworths SA tel +27 21 407 9111;  www.woolworths.co.za
VDMA tel: +49 69 66 03-19 31; www.vdma.org



Solar power strides ahead in South Africa’s Northern Cape province

A few years ago, there was not much interest in solar technology in South Africa. Today, businesses and government increasingly regard it as a cost-effective alternative energy generator with huge potential to help deliver lower-cost energy, encourage job creation and stimulate local economies, according to Gareth Warner, MD of Solarcentury Africa
“By 2030, installed solar energy capacity is expected to reach over 8,400MW. Government has signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for over 1,450 MW from solar photovoltaic (PV) projects,” he said.
Warner says South Africa’s climate is ideal for solar. “Most areas in the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, among the highest in the world, thanks to its sub- equatorial position. The more light the panels receive, the more electricity they generate – but they work on cloudy days too.”
He says solar is growing in popularity given the rising electricity costs.
“While there is an initial outlay cost, it can be recouped after five to eight years on average. That’s an attractive internal rate of return (IRR) especially considering solar electricity is free after the initial payback period,” Warner stated.

The Jasper Photovoltaic solar energy project
All commercial operations on the 96MW Jasper Solar Power Project, Northern Cape, South Africa, were completed in October 2014.
This was recently announced by SolarReserve, a global developer of solar power projects and solar thermal technology.
The project is near Kimberley and produces 180,000MW-hours of energy annually for the country – enough to power up to 80,000 homes.
The consortium that led the development of the project included Intikon Energy, the Kensani Group, Rand Merchant Bank and Google. This was Google’s first clean energy investment in Africa.
The fully operational photovoltaic (PV) facility plays a part in helping South Africa meet its renewable energy targets, in addition to stimulating long-term economic development and creating new jobs.
In 2011, SolarReserve joined local investors and developers to develop large-scale photovoltaic solar energy projects.
The Jasper Power Project was awarded by the South Africa Department of Energy in the second round of bidding under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
Jasper began full construction on site in October 2013, and achieved full commercial operations a year later.
Benefits of the project include clean, zero-emission solar energy, direct and indirect employment, and the fact that 45% of the total project value is local content spend.
Another benefit is preferential procurement – 60% of the local content is with black economic empowerment providers.
Over R2billion (more than $18 billion) will be spent on operations and maintenance costs during the 20-plus years’ operating life-span.

Using solar power to connect South African schools to the internet
Earlier this year, a pioneering school project in South Africa’s Gauteng Province harnessed the latest renewable energy technologies. The school connects teachers and pupils to the internet, bringing them into the digital age while using renewable energy.
Solar-powered internet schools can improve facilities and help attract skilled educators, making a huge difference to the lives of young people, according to theguardian.com website.
The solar-powered internet school at Jiyana Secondary School in Tembisa is supported by Anglo American’s Kumba
Iron Ore.
Kumba supplies iron ore to the global steel industry.
Last year, Kumba set aside an overall education and training budget of R34.8m ($3.1m). Almost half of that amount was directed towards pre-primary and primary schools to improve facilities and help attract skilled and committed educators.
The solar powered internet schools are designed for isolated and remote areas with limited or no access to electricity.
The Jiyana Secondary School project includes a bio-digester which produces gas to be used for cooking by the school.
The project also includes a waste recycling station, a revamp of existing buildings and a tennis court-sized vegetable garden to help provide food for the pupils and staff.
The vegetable garden is expected to ensure a continued supply of organic waste into the bio-digester, giving the school a sustainable energy source.
“We are planning to support three more solar-powered internet schools in the Tsantsabane and John Taolo Gaetsewe municipalities in the Northern Cape province and the Thabazimbi local municipality in Limpopo,” Anglo American said in a statement.
The company said the communities have limited access to education and the internet.
“We believe that this project can positively transform the lives of young people, connecting them with the modern world.”
Yvonne Mfolo, Kumba’s head of public affairs, said: “We recognise the enormous responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of the communities in which we operate. As education is one of our focus areas, we believe that our clean energy initiatives at schools will have a higher impact, by improving the students’ performance.”
She said the company could be a developmental partner with the communities in which it operates. “This involves taking full account of the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people in the communities, ensuring that we fully understand and take on board their suggestions and feedback. It is through working in partnership that we are able to deliver projects such as these,,” she said.
www.theguardian.com
Quick Facts about the Jasper Plant
•    96 MW-DC installed capacity;     75 MW-AC net generation
•    182,000 MW-hours generated annually
•    2nd Round of REIPPP
•    45% of total project value local content spend
•    325,480 PV modules
•    80,000 homes powered
www.solarreserve.com



Poultry producer launches technologically advanced facility (Uganda)

Hudani Manji Holdings, an Ugandian poultry supplier, has launched a poultry farm worth US$9.8mn. The 64 acre poultry farm is situated in Semuto Nakaseke District around 107 km North West of the capital, Kampala and reportedly the biggest in East Africa. According to Hudani Manji Holdings, the poultry facility consists of a four metric tonnes feed-mill and two automated broiler houses with a capacity of 40,000 birds each. “The new Broiler farm and processing plant will be the first highly mechanised abattoir in Uganda and the biggest chicken processing facility in East Africa. The plant is highly automated which shortens production time. The poultry facility was built in response to the demand for chicken which is on the rise in Uganda especially among the growing middle class,” said Rafik Manji, managing director of Hudani Manji Holdings, “This demand has quickly outstripped supply because there is no dominant player in the Ugandan poultry sector.”

Uganda Hudani Manji Holdings is a supplier to fast food companies including Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Tasty’s Drive and Cayenne Express. – africanfarming.net

 



South Africa works hard to curb livestock diseases

The South African government has delivered 356,000 doses of foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccines in its southern province districts in an attempt to curb the illness.  FMD is an infectious and, sometimes, fatal viral disease that affects cloven hoofed domestic and wild animals. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.
Charles Maseka, southern province veterinary officer, says, “In the first phase, we carried out biannual vaccinations against foot and mouth disease in the province. For the second phase, we have received 356,000 doses, which will be used to vaccinate livestock with foot and mouth diseases in high risk zones in the region.”
The FMD high risk districts in southern province are Monze, Mazabuka, Zimba, Namwala, and Kazungula. Of the 356,000 doses Mazabuka will receive 51,000, while 70,000 doses are for Monze district. Namwala, Zimba and Kazungula will each get 180,000, 15,000 and 80,000 respectively, Maseka said.
“To boost the lucrative poultry industry, which is threatened by the newcastle disease, the government has also delivered 1.4mn doses of newcastle disease vaccines,” he added.
Newcastle disease is a contagious bird disease, which is also transmissible to humans. — africanfarming.net



Goldtree invest in Ebola stricken country (Sierra Leone)

Goldtree, a commercial palm oil plantation and milling company based in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, is expanding its operations within the country despite the current Ebola crisis. The Ebola spread has scared off international airlines and grounded several mining operations across West Africa.
According to the agribusiness firm, they will be investing $18.3 million to increase its overall investment in the country to $42 million albeit $3.3 million is expected to be spent on meeting current expenditure and mitigating the economic impact of Ebola. The remaining $15 million will fund an expansion programme, which includes extending the company’s plantations, doubling the size of its dedicated palm oil mill and building a tank farm at a port in Sierra Leone for the export of palm oil.  “Goldtree’s investment gives a vital boost to the country’s agricultural sector, which remains the largest sector of the Sierra Leone economy,” said Dr Joseph Sam Sesay, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, who welcomed the move by Goldtree’s board. “Goldtree’s timely investment will help protect Sierra Leonean livelihoods today and kick start tomorrow’s economic recovery. It also sends a clear message to the world that Sierra Leone remains open for business,” said Sesay.
Luke Marriott, who spoke on behalf of the Goldtree board, said that the company was committed to being part of Sierra Leone’s long-term economic development. “Goldtree has made a commitment to the people of Kailahun which we believe we can best fulfil by looking beyond the country’s current difficulties to its post-Ebola potential.”
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has led to the death of 1130 people in Sierra Leone, one of the hardest hit countries in the region. As a result, investors have been reconsidering their investments, with foreign workers fleeing the country and most of the local workers in some companies placed on compulsory leave. According to expert analysis, lost GDP in Sierra Leone could reach $439 million. – VenturesAfrica.com



Cote d’ Ivoire Rice production expected to rise

A new analysis on the global outlook for rice production and demand, released earlier this month by HIS, has revealed that between 2014 and 2031, Africa will expand its rice production area by almost 50% percent. HIS is an international global source of critical information.
“Africa’s rapid expansion of areas for rice production will be the fastest globally, in percentage terms. Cote d’Ivoire intends on spending $4 billion on agriculture development in order to improve crop yields and, in four years, become a rice exporter,” said Karanta Kalley, chief economist for Africa at IHS.
However, economic development, particularly in West Africa, is currently questionable. “Right now, the question on everyone’s mind is what impact of ebola will have on the economic growth of sub-Saharan Africa,” Kalley said.
IHS expects gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be lowered significantly for 2014 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of the ongoing ebola outbreak.
The IHS confirmed GDP growth rate forecasts have been cut by between one-half and nine-tenths of previous forecasts. Sierra Leone’s economy is projected to have the highest rate of growth at 3.1% in 2014, followed by Guinea at 2%. IHS foresees only a marginal real economic growth rate of 0.8% for Liberia’s economy in 2014.
– AllAfrica.com



Ebola outbreak halts Sime Darby expansion (Liberia)

Malaysian palm oil firm Sime Darby has said the ebola crises will delay construction of a mill for its Liberia plantation. “Anything in addition needs to be put on hold,” said Carl Dagenhar, Sime Darby’s head of sustainability and external relations for Africa and Europe.

Dagenhar said however that normal production was continuing and that the expansion project will resume when the disease is under control.

Sime Darby has a planned investment of over $2 billion in the palm oil plantation where it has planted 10,035 hectares of oil palm and 107 hectares of rubber trees. The company in 2011 signed an agreement with the government to develop about 220,000 hectares of land for 63 years. However, it has to negotiate with local communities before planting on undeveloped areas of the concession.

Only a small part of the company’s acreage is currently in production, which means that the ebola crisis will have little effect on output. According to Reuters, a contractor for Sime Darby Plantation Liberia’s (SDPL) palm oil mill has been chosen and preparations for construction – initially due to be completed in mid-2015 – had already begun when the outbreak began. The construction is now on hold, Dagenhar explained. He said: “Of course we would like to develop more, but I think the most important thing is to survive ebola first.” He added that all 2,881 workers will continue to receive their salaries and benefits, including two 50kg bags of rice each month.

The ebola outbreak has already claimed more than 1,500 lives with over 2,000 others still infected, and continues to wreck economic havoc, in the West African country.

Sime Darby has donated one million Malaysian ringgit ($308,309) to the Liberian Red Cross and to pay for rubber gloves for health workers.

– VenturesAfrica.com



JAI signs MOU to expand rice mill (Nigeria)

Joseph Agro Industries Limited (JAI), one of Nigeria’s leading agri-processing companies, has signed a backward integration memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Anambra state government to invest an initial $150 million (N25billion) in the rehabilitation and expansion of the state’s Omor Rice Mill.
The government of Anambra State, in South-eastern Nigeria, has sought to expand its rich but largely untapped agricultural resources; it says development of the sector is one of its cardinal goals, with the aim of providing job opportunities for over 10,000 people by using an out-grower scheme.
JAI said it will produce 167,000 tons of rice from paddies in two cropping seasons, and another 15,000 hectares is under negotiation, for development into irrigated rice paddy fields. The executive director of JAI, Ken Irhiogbe, said in a statement that China Machinery Equipment Corporation (CMEC), a leading global EPC provider, has been appointed as the technical partner to support in up-scaling the mill’s current capacity of 18,000 tons to an initial 100,000 tons, and in the development of 14000 hectares of land into irrigated paddy fields and the construction of a green energy biomass power plant in Omor using rice husk as feedstock.
JAI also said it will, as part of its long-term strategic objective to ensure sustainability through technology transfer, collaborate with the Confucius Institute and Nnamdi Azikiwe University to produce Chinese-speaking Nigerian students to understudy best rice technology practice.  – VenturesAfrica.com



Constant usage of HQCF saves $773.2million (Nigeria)

Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said the country’s policy on the use of 20% High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) for baking bread saves the nation N127 billion ($773.2 million). The ministry’s South-South region Director, Martins Odeh, furthermore said the HQCF also has the potential to create more jobs for the youth and assist farmers build domestic wealth.
The Nigerian government has been advocating the inclusion of cassava flour in the baking of bread as a measure to break the country’s dependence on food and ingredient imports and encourage local farmers and the private sector to build the agricultural sector.
Odeh also stated that the training provided to farmers was to empower the participants on the inclusion of 20% HQCF in making bread. He urged the participants to make use of the opportunity and learn how to use the recipe. Nigeria has previously been the world’s largest producer of cassava, yet it was not leading in its consumption, he said.
In 2013, Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development signed a N4.3 billion ($20 million) deal with the Bank of Industry (BOI) to boost the production of cassava bread in the country. The country’s Cassava Value Chain Desk Officer, Olajumoke Adewulu, said that the setting up of six high quality cassava processing plants had been approved by Nigeria’s National Assembly. Each plant will be capable of producing 40 tons of HQCF per day in each of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.
– VenturesAfrica.com



Safe handling of biomass materials with Spiroflow

Despite the recent hike in gas and electricity prices, fuelling the growing debate over the cost of green energy to the consumer, the drive towards environmentally-friendly power stations seems set to continue, with biomass-fired plants playing a key role in the switch from coal. Energy companies see biomass as an alternative source of clean fuel that will help meet carbon reduction targets. However, the movement of biomass within power stations and factory environments requires high-quality conveying systems that meet statutory requirements for the safe and dust-free distribution of potentially hazardous materials.
Wood chip, sawdust, pellets and shavings are not easy to handle, they do not all flow freely and can be combustible. As with any potentially combustible component, stringent safety regulations are in place to eliminate or control the risks from explosive atmospheres in the workplace.
Spiroflow Ltd is a world-leading manufacturer of ATEX approved conveying and bulk handling systems that meet regulatory requirements for distributing potentially combustible materials using safe, dust-free and cost-effective methods.
Although ultimately it is the responsibility of biomass processors and power plants to ensure that the workplace is safe, Spiroflow is well aware of the potential dangers that can arise due to dusty atmospheres, and is quick to point out that the key safety ethos for all conveying, handling and weighing equipment should be explosion prevention.
Materials such as wood pellets and wood chips are also quite fragile and need totally secure handling as they can easily degrade over long distances and complicated factory routes. Spiroflow’s ATEX compliant conveyors, bulk bag dischargers and fillers incorporate flow promotion devices to aid the movement of difficult materials with almost negligible degradation.
The company’s tubular drag conveyor, for example, offers total dust free handling and movement of products over distances of three to 60 metres at rates of up 120 tonnes per hour – depending on material and density – efficiently, cleanly and without the need for an air filtration system. Over the years this system has proven to be the most cost-effective method for conveying difficult and temperature-sensitive materials.
It provides complete batch transfer of bulk products from single or multiple in-feed points to single or multiple discharge points, making it ideal for a wide range of materials.
Steve Taylor, Senior Applications Engineer at Spiroflow explained: “Our ATEX compliant tubular drag conveyor meets the strict regulatory demands for conveying biomass materials. Our knowledge of all the hazards associated with conveying potentially combustible materials is second to none.”
Spiroflow manufactures a range of Flexible Screw Conveyors, Aero Mechanical Conveyors, Tubular Cable and Chain Drag Conveyors, Vacuum Conveyors, Bulk Bag Dischargers, Bulk Bag Fillers, Ingredients Handling and Weighing Systems. The company’s technical and engineering expertise has led to it developing an international reputation for an unrivalled range of products with state-of-the-art control systems.



Fairview’s journey towards achieving a carbon neutral footprint

The Fairview Cheesery in the Western Cape began its quest to achieve a carbon neutral status in 2009. Management says this was a response to the negative environmental effects of man-made climate change and because 75% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are generated by businesses.
Now, Fairview Cheesery has been recognised by the Carbon Protocol of SA as the first carbon neutral cheesery on the continent.
A comprehensive assessment of its carbon footprint by Promethium Carbons revealed that the cheesery initially had an annual footprint of 1,743t/CO2e associated with the production of its cheese products.
The Fairview team thereafter embarked on an emissions reduction project to offset this footprint via emission avoidance and sequestration.
Under the guidance of Earth Patrol, a South African carbon management consultancy, the cheesery became involved in two primary carbon offsetting projects: planting trees on the Fairview farm, at local schools, an old age home and a park; and a project to install energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in the homes of Fairview farmworkers and in a number of areas across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng (including low income and subsidised housing areas and special needs centres such as old age homes, orphanages and shelters).
Furthermore, the cheesery erected solar panels to reduce energy consumption. An economiser was installed in the company’s factory. This involved the use of steam to heat water in the boiler which reduced boiler fuel consumption by approximately 130 litres a day.
Fairview’s owner, Charles Back, said the company is continuing its efforts to become a greener, more environmentally aware business.
“We will strive towards innovation and education in the interest of protecting the environment for future generations,” he said.
Fairview is a third generation family owned farm. Back says there is a strong relationship between those who own and work the vineyards and the land that provides raw materials.
The company had previously implemented various measures to ensure that farming and production practices were on par or even exceeded the standards set by local and international authorities, he said.
“South Africa is a country rich in natural resources and biodiversity, which is one of the key areas of attraction for international tourism. However it is also a country that has traditionally been strongly agriculture oriented and reliant.”
The key challenge going forward lies in managing the future sustainability of natural resources and biodiversity,  said Back.
Many groups within the South African wine industry have recognised this “challenge” and been pro-active in pursuing eco-friendly farming methods and practices.
Back noted that 10 of Fairview’s farms have Fairtrade accreditation. Fairtrade is an international organisation focused on ensuring equality and sustainability in agriculture in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The organisation promotes fairer trading conditions for small-scale farmers and workers.
In order to bear the Fairtrade logo products are required to meet stringent social, economic and environmental standards. Products are also required to undergo rigorous annual audits to ensure continued compliance.
Back selected Fairview’s most established and successful wine range to carry the logo – “and maximise the benefit to the community”.
“Goats Do Roam is our largest wine brand, established 15 years ago. It is well established and recognised in 35 countries across the world,” he said.
The Goats Do Roam 2013 range was the first of Fairview’s beverages to be produced using Fairtrade-certified grapes. A percentage of the funds generated from the sale of these wines will be put into various community development projects.
“Through this process workers learn, practice and acquire invaluable life, leadership and management skills – this is truly empowering,” said Fairview’s Fairtrade officer, David Loos.
Fairview is also a member of a South African initiative, the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW), which ensures that grape and wine producers are responsible for their immediate natural environment. The IPW involves an extensive set of vineyard and cellar standards that are regularly monitored by means of internal audits and/or independent auditing.

Nature conservation
In 2008 Fairview partnered with Cape Nature to implement a conservation management programme on the farm and surrounds.
The project commenced on the Paarl Mountain, where Fairview teamed up with the Working for Water social and environmental rehabilitation programme to clear an alien pine forested in an attempt to restore part of the mountain’s natural vegetation (predominantly fynbos).
Fairview’s alien vegetation removal efforts now also include the removal of major environmental concerns such as blue gum, port Jackson and black wattle (which grow across the neighbouring farms and surrounds).

The future
From the 2010 vintage onwards, Fairview wines all carry an integrity and sustainability seal.
“This certifies that we are committed to the agreed standards set by the four organisations involved,” says Back.
Fairview is committed to:
•    Upholding the standards set by the participating organisations.
•    Using environmentally-friendly products, in both its vineyards and cellars.
•    Continuing the eradication of alien vegetation both in agricultural and natural areas.
•    Planting indigenous grasses and plants in its vineyards to prevent soil erosion, improve soil condition and create corridors for the safe movement of natural fauna.
•    Reducing carbon emissions in its vineyards and cellars.
•    Ensuring safe working conditions for all its employees.
•    Continuing water conservation.
•    Keeping records of the indigenous fauna and flora on its property.
•    Continuing participating in similar initiatives among the business’s contractors.
•    Furthering education and training.
Fairview Cheesery: Tel +27 21 863 2450;
info@fairview.co.za; www.fairview.co.za



Extrusion fabricated novel grain based nutri-bar to fight malnutrition

In recent decades, huge strides have been made in the fight against child hunger. However, the international humanitarian organisation committed to ending child hunger, Action Against Hunger’s recent report, the State of Global Severe Acute Malnutrition Management Coverage,  indicates that millions of children continue to die from acute malnutrition every year. UNICEF’s most recent figures estimated that 34.6 million children battled severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2012.
South Asia tops the list with 21.9 million malnourished children, followed by West and Central Africa with 5.3 million. East and Southern Africa are third on the list with 2.9 million children battling the life threatening condition.
The report says that recent estimates indicate that more SAM children were treated in 2012 than ever before. The global burden of SAM therefore remains high.
The initial recommendation for SAM children was “urgent treatment”, which involved being hospitalised to receive therapeutic diets and medical care. The introduction of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) has changed the situation in that it “manages” communities consisting of large numbers of children with SAM without medical treatment.
At the ExtruAfrica Conference 2014, held over four days in Potchefstroom, South Africa, earlier this year, Johan de Wet a retired Food Technologist spoke about the burdens of malnutrition.
Said De Wet: “It is seen as a medical and social disorder. The body consumes its own tissue in order to survive. It is a life-threatening condition and the consequences are often fatal.”
He said that malnutrition imposes an unacceptably high economic cost and burden on developing countries. He further described the “root” of the condition as complex, multi-factorial and multi-dimensional.
“Millions of children begin life without hope,” De Wet said. He particularly stressed the urgent need for effective nutritional intervention to combat malnutrition during early life.
Quoting Nobel Prize laureate, Gabriela Mistral, De Wet said, “Many of our needs can wait, the child’s cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed. His blood is being made, his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say ‘Tomorrow’. His name is ‘Today’.”
De Wet referred to the need to offer ready-to-eat rehabilitation food based on the World Health Organisation’s opposition formulae.
He detailed the production of a grain-based bar used to treat malnutrition.
De Wet said a paediatric nutritionist, Dr Andre Briend, had a  few years ago, together with French food manufacturing company Nutriset, developed a fortified, fat-based spread. The product is also described as a lipid-based nutrient supplement.
Briend is believed to have been inspired by the popular hazelnut choc spread, Nutella.
Nutriset is a company dedicated to preventing and treating malnutrition.
The new ready-to-use therapeutic food was produced and marketed as Plumpy’Nut [PPn].
“PPn is energy-dense [530kcal/100g] food based on peanuts, milk solids, sugar, oil and vitamin mix, with a water activity of 0.3,” De Wet said.
It is used to treat emergency malnutrition cases. It alleviates mpending illness or death in a starving child.
The product is easy for children to eat because it dispenses readily from a durable, tear-open package.
De Wet outlined the product’s advantages:
•    PPn’s low water activity makes it microbiologically safe, requiring only simple packaging.
•    It is stored at tropical household temperatures without refrigeration     [5-6 months].
•    It can be used effectively in situations with non-optimal hygiene conditions.
•    It can be eaten directly without preparation – most children can feed themselves.
•    Its high lipid content serves as an essential matrix ensuring that fat-soluble vitamins are properly dispersed and accessible.
He listed its disadvantages:
•    Milk powder has recently become expensive; it is often imported and its cost can represent half the ingredient cost of the final PPn.
•    Peanuts are notorious for being tainted with potent mycotoxins and antigens which complicate quality control in local, small-scale production.
•    Allergic reactions to and the high phytate/zinc ratio reduces mineral availability and reduces suitability.
•    Peanut protein is deficient in lysine as well as in some vitamins and minerals for growing children.

A need for alternatives
De Wet said there was a need for alternatives to products like PPn in order to combine various cereals and oilseeds to maximise protein quality.
“There is a need for novel innovations. Cheaper, indigenously-designed, therapeutic products would be [more] cost effective and more culturally acceptable locally.”
He said that substantial research was put into the development of locally-produced PPn-like products.
“In Benin and Congo, for instance, dried insects and caterpillar worms are mixed with cereals into PPn. In some cases, isolated soya protein, resulting in a lower cost per kilogram of protein, was replacing expensive milk powder,”
De Wet said.
He stated that  the WHO supports the addition of broad-spectrum antibiotics for children with SAM because it reduces the need for administration of antibiotics.
Peanut butter-like paste has a low water content which, De Wet said, makes it a suitable vehicle to deliver probiotics.
De Wet showed attendees the product he prepared in his own home. He said the same ingredients as PPn were used in these products.
He advocated developing a new product in the form of extrusion bars to fight the effects of malnutrition, based on what he had produced.
“Endeavour to design a novel, low-cost PPn formulation composed of locally-available maize, broken rice and soya bean. It should undergo pre-extrusion-treatment with amylase enzyme and reactive-extrusion cooking into a pre-digested, partially-hydrolysed extrudate.”
The enhanced production output was 30/40%, with lower electric energy consumption 20/30% he said.
The flour mixed with oil, sugar, micro-nutrients, and shelf-stable probiotic, required cold-extrusion. A compact food bar that facilitates ingestion and digestion could be produced.
“It would sustain and improve nutritional rehabilitation of malnourished children as well as HIV/TB patients,”
he added.
According to De Wet, the process is a simple, modest technology. The work can be easily performed by unskilled operators.
“It requires low investment in equipment and facilities and can be easily transferable to small scale, local producers in developing countries.”
He said that indigenous PPn production offered the opportunity to stimulate agribusiness, create employment and widen the benefits for local farmer economies.
A patent for the product or process of PPn was filed in 38 countries he said. It provoked widespread debate about the ethics of profiting from poverty or hunger.
– Aarifah Nosarka
Nutriset: www.nutriset.fr;
tel: +33(0)2 32 93 82 82



Nestlé’s new MD continues investment in Africa

After being with Nestlé for over 40 years, South African Ian Donald has been announced as the new managing director for Nestlé South Africa. Said Donald: “I am excited to be back home and humbled by this opportunity to lead this company that has been a part of our country for almost 100 years. I would like to thank Sullivan O’Carroll, former Chairman and Managing Director, for his sterling leadership over the past five years and I look forward to building on his legacy and continuing to leading this company to even greater heights.”
Donald began his career at Nestlé in South Africa in 1972 and has worked in various countries including Nestlé in Philippines, Malaysia and Pakistan. Before his return to South Africa, Donald was Market Head for Nestlé Equatorial African Region, based in Kenya, for the past two years where he was responsible for 21 countries in that region.
As part of Donald’s initial projects, Nestlé will invest R2billion into the business over the next five years. Says Donald: “Nestlé believes in Africa as an investment destination and part of our ongoing investment will include increasing the capacity for our coffee factory in Estcourt, Kwa-Zulu Natal, with the aim of creating a coffee hub for the region. The factory is expected to create an export hub for sub-Saharan Africa.”
The R2 billion investment will be focused on capacity building, general capital refurbishment, biomass boilers and converting Nestlé’s Mossel Bay dairy factory to a water neutral one. The new investment is in line with Nestlé South Africa’s existing investment plan.
Donald further said that Nestlé was looking at setting up manufacturing plants in several other African countries, including Ethiopia and Mozambique, although he did not give specifics timeframes.
Nestlé, which makes about 4% of its sales in Africa, could “easily” push that up to 10%, Donald said, without giving details. “We’re being realistic with sub-Saharan Africa. We realise that we are going to have to walk before we run, so we are still building businesses that should contribute significantly to group revenue in the future,” he said.
As part of the strategy to expand in Africa, Nestlé has embarked on a strategy whereby it is evaluating and devising ways to increase agricultural productivity of smallholder dairy farmers through technology innovation. Nestlé and Global Good have announced the Clinton Global Initiative Commitments to Action, as part of a two-year partnership to improve the productivity of smallholder dairy farmers in East Africa. The project will focus on expanding the use of a specially designed milk container, known as Mazzi, to maximize the quality and quantity of milk the farmers sell.
Nestlé’s second commitment is to purchase at least 3,000 Mazzi containers to help simplify the milk collection and transport process and reduce milk spoilage and spillage for farmers.
Derived from “maziwa”, the Swahili word for milk, Mazzi is a durable food-grade plastic container designed with
a wide mouth that better enables farmers to milk using both hands.
Mazzi’s detachable black funnel helps to identify signs of a cow’s mastitis (udder infection). Its secure and durable lid prevents spills and allows for easy transportation by hand, bicycle or draft animal from farms to local collection centres or chilling stations.
Once emptied, Mazzi’s accessible and smooth interior surface also makes it easy to clean, and with much less water than is required with the milk collection buckets and repurposed jerry cans currently widely used by farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Maurizio Vecchione, senior vice-president of Global Good, commented: “Unlike the efficient processing and supply chains common in many developed countries, when these rural farmers collect and transport their cows’ milk from farms to local collection centres or chilling stations, the milk often gets spilled or spoiled.”
Vecchione  added that Mazzi‘s durable lid prevents spills and allows for easy transportation by hand, bicycle or animal from farm to local collection centres.
In a statement issued by Nestlé, the partners will undertake field evaluation work in Uganda or Kenya, which will start from November 2014. The field evaluation work will identify areas where technical innovation can be applied to improve the efficiency, quality, health, nutrition and sustainability of dairy farming.
“It is an important step in deepening Nestlé’s dairy work in East Africa to help smallholder farmers increase their milk production and their incomes,” said Hans Joehr, head of agriculture at Nestlé.
Nestlé has 10 factories, three distribution centres and four agencies across Southern Africa. It manufactures consumer goods such as baby milk powder, coffee creamer and instant noodles.
Nestlé South Africa services neighbouring countries Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia.
– Kgaogelo Mamabolo
Nestle: Tel +27 11 514 6799; www.nestle.co.za
Mazzi: info@mazzican.com;
www.mazzican.com



Build your dream home

Bricks have been the building material of choice for centuries. Today, with the introduction of new laws relating to better insulation for electricity saving and a move towards greener, more environmentally conscious choices, builders and architects are looking for innovative construction methods. Not only are many of the alternative building methods better for our planet, they’re also substantially cheaper than brick and mortar construction, but buildings can be erected far quicker.
Traditional brick building
The history of traditional brick building is an ancient one. Along with wood, bricks are probably one of the oldest building materials, dating back 6 000 years. The very first bricks were made from thick mud and sun dried. The Egyptians made bricks using Nile mud and mixed them with straw and sand for extra strength. The Romans introduced the idea of firing bricks in a kiln. Brick making quickly spread through Europe and continued to develop. Both the Chinese and Aztec civilisations had their own brick making methods.
Although bricks are made from natural materials that are abundant on our planet, older brick yards still use coal fired or wood burning kilns to bake bricks, both of which have a negative impact on our environment. Modern brick making processes are more streamlined and use less energy and water, but many still feel that our building future lies in finding alternative building methods.

Alternative building solutions

While more sustainable methods of building are at the forefront of new building technology, lower cost and less construction time are two important reasons why people are looking for alternative building materials. While the idea of a cordwood, bamboo house or an earth ship (a home built from used car tyres) may not appeal to you, homes built using a light steel frame structure or an interlocking block system look outwardly the same as those built with bricks and mortar. Let’s take a look at some of the alternative building methods now available in South Africa.

Sandbag building
The Eco-Beam Sandbag Building System was developed as a solution to low-cost housing. There are three main elements to the sandbag building process. First a framework of timber and metal beams is erected, then geo-fabric sandbags are filled with sand and stacked between the beams. Beams are clad with wire mesh and either plaster, timber or plasterboard. Once complete, the home is waterproof, fire resistant and sound proof. Homes are cool in summer and warm in winter. Sandbag building provides a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly building solution. Building materials are also lighter and therefore cheaper to transport to the site. Construction uses minimal amounts of water and cement and no electricity is needed at the building site.

Timber frame homes
Timber homes are an attractive option for home buyers. While not always cheaper than conventional building, wood is a natural insulator and can help reduce high electricity costs. The timber frame is constructed after the suspended floor is complete. This is followed by the installation of the roof trusses. The roofing material and waterproofing is installed before external wall cladding and waterproofing is completed. After electrical and plumbing first fixes are complete, the house is ready for internal cavity batt insulation and internal cladding. Doors and windows will be installed before final finishes such as ceiling installation, skirtings and cornices. Kitchen and bathroom fixtures and final plumbing and electrical fixes are last to be completed. The homeowner has different options for internal and external cladding. Timber construction has a low impact on the surrounding environment and construction time is reduced. Homeowners considering this type of construction should look for companies that are environmentally conscious and use timber products from sustainable forests.

Interlocking blocks
Interlocking blocks replace conventional bricks. They can be made using a concrete mix poured into plastic moulds and left to dry, or manufactured on site using a soil and cement mix passed through a block-making machine. The blocks are usually dry stacked and, depending on the product used, require little or no mortar during construction. Blocks can be stacked using semi- or unskilled labour and this helps to reduce building costs. Houses built using this method are durable and resistant to boring insects and fire. Depending on the interlocking block system used, site waste, energy and water usage are reduced. Homes can be built in far less time than brick and mortar structures.

Light steel frame construction
Internationally, light steel frame (LSF) construction is not a new concept, but it has only recently taken off in South Africa, especially for residential homes. Wall frames and roof trusses are manufactured from cold-form light gauge galvanised steel and erected on a concrete foundation or a concrete slab. Cavities are filled with insulating cavity batting. Conduits for plumbing and electrical are installed inside the wall cavity. Various interior and exterior cladding systems may be used and fixed to the frame, including a single-skin brick wall or fibre cement board.
One of the main advantages of light steel frame construction is the reduced construction time. LSF buildings are energy efficient and resistant to termites and other boring insects. Galvanised steel also resists rust and corrosion. Walls are square, so finishings within the home (such as cupboard installation and tiling) are likely to be faster and more cost-effective. Site waste is also greatly reduced.

SIPS kit homes
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) provide a modern, cost-effective building solution for residential homes. SIPS have been used successfully for over 40 years. Panels consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two facings. The core may be expanded or extruded polystyrene or polyurethane foam (PUR), while facings are 12mm oriented strand board (OSB) or magnesium-oxide sheets. Panels can be used for roofs, floors and exterior and interior walls.
A SIPS building is erected on a foundation designed and certified by a structural engineer. After the foundations are complete, the kit will be developed and a professional team will erect your home. The kit includes SIPS wall panels, a complete roof structure, ceiling, insulation, pre-glazed aluminium windows, doors and first fix electrical conduits that are cast into the panels. Panels are heavily insulated and this eliminates the need for additional insulation. Additional electrical fitting and wiring must be completed by an electrician and plumbing completed by a registered plumber. SIPS building systems are durable, strong and cost-effective as construction time is reduced, saving the homeowner money on labour costs. Panels are also treated to provide protection against termites and SIPS panels are protected against fire by the use of thermal barriers like plasterboard. SIPS buildings are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. –Gina Hartoog
Using drywall
Drywall can be used to construct walls or install ceilings in your home. Drywall has a foam gypsum core that is sandwiched between paper liners. Gypsum is a coloured, grey or white sulfate mineral that is found close to the earth’s surface. It is mined underground or in quarries throughout the world.
Drywall is easy to work with.
Even those with average DIY skills should be able to hang drywall.
You need to be able to measure accurately and know how to use an electrical drill and spirit level. Once the steel framing is in place and the drywall installed, joints should be sealed with tape and drywall filler. Using drywall for alterations within your home is far less messy, more cost effective and saves time. You don’t need municipal approved plans to make an alteration using drywall in the interior of your home.
Contact information
* All About Building (SIPS) ,www.allaboutbuilding.co.za
* Ecosteps (Eco-Beam Sandbag System), www.ecosteps.co.za
* Eco Log Homes (timber frame), www.ecologhomes.co.za
* Everite Building Projects (Nutec), www.everite.co.za
* Hydraform (interlocking block making machines),www.hydraform.com
* Saint-Gobain Gyproc (Rhinoboard), www.gyproc.co.za
* Stumbelbloc (plastic moulds for interlocking blocks), www.stumbelbloc.com