CHISUMBANJE — The country’s bio-fuel firm, Green Fuel, is set to transform the face of the entire eastern region through the US$600 million ethanol plant earmarked for expansion at a time when the discovery of diamonds in Marange has failed to spruce up the underdeveloped province.While diamond mining has yielded far less than expected in terms of development in the Manicaland Province, the successful reopening of the Chisumbanje ethanol plant in March has once again given hope to the region.
The ethanol plant is tipped to become the backbone of the provincial economy through infrastructural development, power generation, food security and employment creation.
The project has received overwhelming endorsement from politicians, the business community, traditional leaders and villagers as the new source of provincial and national development.
Previously the ethanol project was hampered by a political warfare between ZANU-PF and the MDC-T as it was believed to have been established to influence the electorate to vote for ZANU PF.
After the political dust settled, shortly after July 31 elections, the ethanol project is back on course following intense lobbying from villagers who were benefiting immensely from its operations.
Green Fuel public relations officer Lilian Muungani said the project is poised to create employment and renovate dilapidated infrastructure.
The plant has already created 5 476 jobs in the agricultural, manufacturing and logistical departments.
This has directly benefitted the community.
A total of 2 500 households are being supported by Green Fuel’s irrigation schemes which water crops under an area measuring 2 861 hectares.
A total of US$2 million is spent on wages, salaries and procurement finance for various consumables for the project within the Checheche community every month.
Seven banks have already opened new branches in order to mop up this cash and provide services to thousands workers.
All these figures indicate how the province has benefited from the operations of the plant.
Muungani said there are more plants that are under Green Fuel’s investment vision.
The existing ethanol plant has an 18 megawatt power generation capacity with 15MW expected to be offloaded to the national grid.
Of the 15MW, 8MW is set to light up the Chisumbanje community once the power line has been completed by the end of the year.
Nationally, the plant is assisting the government to save US$4 million a month through 10 percent mandatory blending of ethanol with unleaded petrol.
Documents in possession of The Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets indicate that the country’s sole ethanol producing firm’s investment blue print, which translates into billions of dollars, will result in the construction of four ethanol producing plants.
Muungani confirmed the planned development.
“We are still in our first stages of our investment plant. The plan is to build four more plants which will make the country a self-sufficient fuel producer. Moreover, we have to look at this issue from a provincial point of view. What benefits does this have for Manicaland? The province stands to benefit immensely from the ethanol project through various ways.
“Areas that experience low rainfall such as the region five here will be able to farm three times a year through the existing irrigation schemes.”
“The area from Middle Sabi up to Chisumbanje will also be transformed in terms of infrastructure development to match a town status. This is not to mention employment creation for the province as we adopted a bias towards locals when doing our recruitment. As I speak about 50 people from the community have just been employed as of last week,” said Muungani.
The investment vision blue print indicates that the four plants will be supported by 46 000 hectares of commercial cane plantations with 10 000 hectares in Middle Sabi and the remainder in Chisumbanje.
The plants have a combined annual capacity to produce 1,5 billion litres.
This figure will meet the country’s domestic petrol requirements, which stands at 1,5 million litres per day, while the surplus will be for the export market.
The plants also have a capacity to produce 120MW of electricity, just below the provincial power consumption of 300MW.
Green Fuel general manager Graeme Smith said the company was now in the process of constructing a dam as part of a US$500 million investment.
Smith said the investment, which kicks-off in 2015, will result in the construction of the Kondo Dam, erection of vast irrigation schemes, installation of hydro power among other things.
Kondo Dam will then become the biggest inland dam in Manicaland, beefing up water supplies for the Chisumbanje commercial and communal irrigation schemes run by Green Fuel.