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Day-4 Malibiocarburant and IPR – by Brendan O’Connell

Monday January 13, 2014

The agenda for the Sweet Sorghum Processing Team was to visit Malibiocarburant and IPR in the nearby city of Koulikoro, Mali.

Malibiocarburant is a company that “produces biofuel in a way that supplements farmers’ incomes, contributes to poverty alleviation and respects the environment” and we took the hour long drive north to meet with them.  We picked up two employees of the company, Frederic Sanou and Aukje de Jager, who explained to us what the company does and how they are looking to use sweet sorghum.  Malibiocarburant currently works with local farmers to utilize different methods of producing biofuel. They took the team out to the fields to show us some jatropha plants currently being used for biofuel. They explained to us that they are looking into the possibility of intercropping the jatropha with sweet sorghum.  Jatropha is a plant utilized for biofuel, while sweet sorghum would be used for human nutrition.  Intercropping with sweet sorghum  would be of more value to the farmers.

After visiting with Malibiocarburant, the team headed to Institut Polytechnique Rural (IPR) for discussions of the sweet sorghum concentrator after the team builds it in April/May.  The goal of the meeting was to find some local students who would be willing to help with the manufacturing of the concentrator on-site in Mali rather than having us ship it there. The University of St. Thomas has worked with IPR in the past, helping install Solidworks to their university’s computers.  The team gave a short presentation and then Dr. Camille George further explained how it would be useful to work with students who already live in Mali by sending the Solidworks drawings and have them reproduce it there.  The IPR directors seemed quite confused and were very hesitant to agree.  They cited “lack of funds” as a reason they would have a hard time cooperating.  After much persistence from Dr. George and a long translated dialogue, the leaders agreed to set something up in the future to continue the project in the future, even after the concentrator is completed.

The team took the trip back to home base at The Sleeping Camel and crashed for the night. They days have been long a hot but we are getting lots of work accomplished.