Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu has commissioned the $190m first-ever cassava ethanol project in Kawambwa aimed at substituting imported fuel with bio-fuel, Zambia Daily Mail reported.

The construction of Zambia’s first bio-refinery is scheduled to start in 2016, and it is poised to create a market for cassava for over 20,000 local farmers in line with the government’s policy to diversify away from the mining sector.

The refinery is to cater for 20% of the country’s petroleum requirements and it has come at the right time when the country is in need of cheaper energy, according to AllAfrica.

During the ground-breaking ceremony to commence the project, President Lungu disclosed that, earlier, a government team had been sent to Thailand for observation to be later able to replicate the success story of a similar project in Kawambwa. He added that the project in Thailand was successful in creating thousands of jobs for rural farmers with production levels in excess of 600,000 tons of cassava per year. Other benefits of the project in Zambia are the production of over 120m liters of bio-ethanol annually and the creation of more than 500 direct employment opportunities in management, engineering, accounts, and other fields.