By Dickson Jere
I got an invite for late lunch with former President Rupiah Banda. He wanted to introduce me to “a very interesting” man whom he had met while in Atlanta Georgia in 2012 after he left office.
“You should listen to him attentively. He has great ideas,” President Banda said ahead of the lunch at his Lilayi house last year.
The three of us sat for a sumptuous lunch on the patio.
The “very interesting” man looked ordinary even though he was suited for the event and came with a laptop – ready for the presentation to me and the former President. The topic of discussion was power generation and biofuels in Zambia to help end load shedding.
Chiluwata Lungu is a Zambian professor based in Atlanta. He is a lead Combustion Aerothermal Engineer working for General Electric (GE) Power in the US. He is a genius who is also the man behind the Zambia Robotics – the team of young engineers that has taken the world by storm. Check them on CNN Inside Africa programs and have won awards internationally. Lungu is an expert in the manufacturing of aeroplanes and jet engines. He knows his stuff!
So, his take was that the brewing of Kachasu in Zambia should be encouraged. He believes the “Kachasu Project” can be a game-changer for the country and create employment for the youths and women, especially in shanty compounds.
“Kachasu is composed of ethanol which is a biofuel used for petrol,” he said, adding that it can also be used as fuel for cars.
“We need to change our mindset and perspective. Instead of looking at Kachasu as alcohol for drinking, we should look at it as a biofuel to power our economic growth,” he said.
The professor had figured. A drum of Kachasu is appropriately 200 litres and currently costs about K200, which translates to K1 per litre of Kachasu. But if sold as ethanol, it will cost K5 per litre, which is five times more than what the brewers get in compounds.
“We have a cheaper and greener locally sourced supply of fuel and Zambia can become a biofuel leader and exporter,” Lungu said while giving Brazil a good example of the country making money in biofuels.
As an expert in combustion, he said he is able to adjust most of the gensets in Zambia to start using Kachasu as fuels. It is very simple to do, he believes, given his experience.
“Kachasu is 20% ethanol biofuel, a green fuel alternative for petrol/gasoline,” he said.
“Imagine if our mothers and grandmothers can make Kachasu and ethanol biofuel in their backyards, what more can we do to transform our great nation if we put our mind and collective efforts to it,” he said.
After a three-hour lunch, I was wowed!
“Kana Nzelu Ku Munthu aka…” President Banda said to me after the presentation.
Last week, Prof Lungu got in touch with me even before the current Kachasu debacle broke out. He promised to take me to his farm in the Mungule area once he returns to Zambia to showcase how his genset will be powered by Kachasu.
So, my thoughts are – Just legalize and regulate Kachasu as a biofuel in Zambia!
NB. Prof Lungu is the man behind the Zambian Institute for Sustainable Development (ZISD), which also has a girls’ football team.