Improving the lives of smallholder farmers in the poorest parts of Mozambique – thanks to one of our beers

Not just any beer, though. Impala is the world’s first commercially-brewed cassava beer. Launched in 2011 by our Mozambican subsidiary, Cervejas de Mozambique, it has since become one of our fastest growing and best-selling beers in the east African country.

Finding a way of using the tuber to make beer, though, was no easy task. Pull up a cassava root and within 24 hours it blackens and spoils. And because it’s about 70% water, it’s very expensive to transport.

Before Impala, cassava was for many of Mozambique’s farmers little more than a subsistence crop. They struggled to sell the occasional bag and up to 40% of it remained in the ground.

The innovative technology solution came in the form of a specialised cassava mobile processing unit technology developed by the Dutch Agricultural Development & Trading Company (DADTCO). The 40-foot-long processing units move between different growing regions and districts converting raw cassava into cassava cake, which has improved shelf-life and is easier to transport to Cervejas de Mozambique breweries.

High in the starches that are essential for brewing beer, the cassava cake is fermented into a 6.5% ABV lager, which is bottled in various pack sizes for sale in local markets and communities.

Owing to a specific excise regime from the Mozambique government, we are able to sell Impala at 67% of the price of a regular mainstream lager, making it an affordable, consistently high quality alternative to informal alcohol like home-brewed beers, which often have a higher ABV.

This not only makes for safer drinking, but the government gains from increased tax revenue as consumers trade up from home brews.

Since the launch of Impala in Mozambique more than 40,000 tonnes of raw cassava has been purchased benefiting over 7,500 smallholder farmers and their families. These farmers are able to sell their crops to the brewery and in turn are supported to improve their farming practices and skills.

For many, it’s the first time they’ve made an income from their farm – reflected in the fact that three months into the scheme the number of bicycles in one district doubled!

And at the mobile processing unit sites, a borehole is dug that supplies water for local communities as well as the plant.

There should be other health benefits, too. In a few years we predict that affordable beers like this, made to consistent quality standards, can replace some 25 million servings of potentially harmful home-brews.

The Impala project was named Best Corporate Social Responsibility Report or Initiative at the Beverage Innovation Awards announced at Drinktec in Germany in 2013 and it has also won a number of other awards. And its success doesn’t end with the accolades.

The potential for similar schemes is vast. Cassava is the most widely grown, yet the least commercial crop in the whole of Africa, and we have already launched other cassava initiatives in Ghana and Zambia.

So if you live, work or travel in Africa, make sure you try one of our cassava brands. We predict you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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