Biomass Supplies, a Sri Lankan subsidiary of Biomass Group – the visionary renewable energy company – is developing Sri Lanka’s abundant sustainable energy resources through innovative partnerships with the country’s smallholder farmers.
Biomass has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to boost the incomes of 40,000 farmers – at least 70% of them women – by 2018 and improve their yields through training in sustainable agriculture practices.
The BCtA is a global initiative that aims to support private sector efforts to fight poverty through its core business. It is supported by several international organisations and hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
As a lower middle-income country, Sri Lanka has seen notable progress in reducing poverty from 15% in 2006 to less than 9% in 2010. However, rural poverty remains the country’s main challenge: nine out of ten of Sri Lanka’s poor people live in rural areas, where a 30-year conflict destroyed countless livelihoods. With no fossil-derived energy resources, the majority of Sri Lanka’s electric power is generated from heavy fuel oil, which is harmful to the environment.
Biomass Supplies is tackling rural poverty in the country with an inclusive business model based on one of Sri Lanka’s most important assets: its bountiful supply of biomass. According to some estimates, the country has the potential to process 54 million tons of biomass annually, which far exceeds Sri Lanka’s biomass power needs.
The primary source of biomass used by the company is Gliricidia, a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree that grows wild throughout the country. In addition to generating incomes for rural communities, Gliricidia leaves improve the soil, which leads to higher yields of local farmers’ crops. Its leaves are also rich in proteins and can be used as animal fodder and fertiliser.
“Our vision is to prepare 500,000 farming families to plant 1 billion Gliricidia trees,” said Biomass Group Founder Lucky Dissanayake. “Sri Lanka is largely farmed by smallholders, and Biomass Supplies is helping many of them to increase their incomes, improve farming practices, raise standards in the agricultural value chain and ultimately make available a prime source of commercial biomass for generating clean energy.”
To date, Biomass Supplies has already conducted over 500 farmer training courses in Trincomalee District and 40,000 small farmers have been registered as fuel wood suppliers – 70% of them women. By the project’s fifth year, Biomass estimates that each farming family will have the opportunity to earn an additional $ 2,000 annually by selling Gliricidia branches and other crops to the company.
“Biomass Supplies represents a great model for inclusive business, tackling one of Sri Lanka’s main social challenges – rural poverty – by providing income-generation opportunities to rural communities in a sustainable manner, and by expanding the use and trade of a positive alternative to coal and fossil fuels,” said BCtA Project Manager Paula Pelaez. “We are pleased to welcome them to the Business Call to Action.”
Launched at the United Nations in 2008, the Business Call to Action (BCtA) aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development, US Agency for International Development, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat.
Biomass Group is a vertically integrated renewable energy company that develops biomass energy resources (supply) for pellets (alternative to coal) and power generation. The company seeks to help developing countries to find alternatives to fossil fuel in tandem with a focus on development. Sri Lanka was the ideal country for launching this venture because the country is blessed with a bountiful supply of biomass; the objective is to scale up the Biomass inclusive business model in other developing countries.
To achieve this goal, Biomass Group is a pioneering innovative partnerships with smallholder farmers and land owners to supply fuelwood that can be used both for power generation for the grid and as an alternative energy source.