Boeing, South African Airways helping smallholder farmers grow biofuel crops

Mar 11, 2014
Boeing, South African Airways helping smallholder farmers grow biofuel crops

Boeing has launched an initiative with South African Airways (SAA) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) to expand opportunities for “smallhold” farmers in Southern Africa to grow crops that produce sustainable fuels.

Boeing says the program builds on a global effort alongside RSB and other partners to help farmers with small plots of land gain access to markets for sustainable biofuels and biomaterials. In the coming months, Boeing and RSB will work with Southern African stakeholders to create pilot programs to build knowledge and skills among groups of farmers who want to certify their crops as sustainable.

As Southern Africa gains capacity in this area, Boeing says more farmers will be positioned to tap into demand for biofuel feedstocks certified to provide socioeconomic value to communities without adverse impact to food supplies, fresh water or land use.

“SAA seeks to drive development of sustainable biofuel supply chains in a way that enhances our region’s economic opportunity from local agriculture and energy production,” said Ian Cruickshank, SAA Group Environmental Affairs Specialist. “Our joint project with Boeing and RSB is a first step toward the goal of ensuring that our efforts benefit smallhold farmers, given their importance to our country’s rural economy.”

This initiative follows the announcement in October 2013 that Boeing and South African Airways would collaborate to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. It is also aligned with a similar effort by Boeing and RSB to expand biofuel crop opportunities for small farmers in Southeast Asia.

“We will work with partners from across the region to identify how we can join together to help small farmers improve their production and income,” says Rolf Hogan, Executive Secretary of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials. “Certifying small farmers is the surest way to ensure sustainable biofuels that not only reduce carbon emissions but also improve the livelihoods of rural communities.”

When produced sustainably, aviation biofuel emits 50 to 80 percent lower carbon emissions through its lifecycle (compared to petroleum fuel) because biofuel feedstocks absorb carbon dioxide during their growth cycle. Aviation biofuel refined to required standards has been approved for a blend of up to 50 percent with traditional jet fuel. Globally, more than 1,500 passenger flights using biofuel have been conducted since the fuel was approved.

In January, Boeing announced that it will join Etihad Airways, Takreer, Total and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to collaborate on a new initiative to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The initiative, BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability, will engage a wide range of stakeholders to develop a comprehensive framework for a UAE biofuel supply chain by focusing on research and development and investments in feedstock production and refining capability in the UAE and globally.

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