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IDB’s MIF supports biomass project in northern Brazil

Discarded fruit kernels become fuel for energy generation

A $2 million pilot project backed by the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund will help poor families in northern Brazil become biomass suppliers to power plants by using waste from açai, a tropical fruit.

Açai grows on palm trees found from Brazil to Central America. In the Amazon its pulp is a traditional staple but more recently the fruit has become a popular ingredient in health supplements and beverages.

The northern state of Pará is the biggest açai producer. Most of the fruit is processed in the state capital, Belém do Pará. The kernels and other waste are frequently dumped in the city’s streets, sewers and nearby rivers.

The project will organize açai pulp producers and pickers into a network to collect kernels, seeking to establish a commercially viable, sustainable and inclusive biomass production business and reduce the pollution caused by the illegal disposal of fruit waste in Pará.

The network will deliver the kernels to VBA-Açai, a company that will process the fruit waste into pellets. VBA-Açai is a subsidiary of World Wide Recycling, a Netherlands-based group recognized for its sustainable waste treatment model.

“This innovative approach will turn a growing environmental problem into a green business opportunity,” said MIF project team leader Lorena Mejicanos Ríos. “We expect this project to inspire the culture of recycling and provide important lessons for similar initiatives throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The project will provide technical assistance and training to waste collection cooperatives, as well as design a logistics plan that includes establishing waste collection stations and organizing transportation of the material to VBA-Açai.

The project will generate new income opportunities for 2,400 pulp producers and 360 waste pickers —most of whom are women—and help create 65 new jobs at VBA-Açai.

In addition, the project will seek to be registered under the Clean Development Mechanism or other alternative carbon certification programs in order to create additional income streams for pulp processors and waste pickers through the sale of carbon credits. It will also help mitigate climate change by reducing the generation of methane from the fruit waste, with avoided equivalent CO2 emissions of at least 234,000 metric tons in the first 10 years of the project.

The project will be executed by VAR do Brasil Ambiental, a non-profit created by VBA-Açai, a Brazilian subsidiary of Netherlands-based World Wide Recycling, and Dutch development cooperation organization ICCO.

About MIF

Established in 1993 as part of the IDB Group, the Multilateral Investment Fund develops effective approaches to support economic growth and poverty reduction through private sector-led development in support of micro, small and medium enterprises, benefitting the poor—their businesses, their farms, and their households.