Postcards from the field: Processing oil palm with sustainable fuels

By: Margaret Arwari

17 November 2020

Photo : Mawuli Kodzo Ericson Sevor conducting a plot survey in an oil palm farm

Mawuli Kodzo Ericson Sevor was born thirty-five years ago in Tsito-Awudome, a town at the foothills of the Adaklu Mountains, near the Kalakpa Game Production Forest Reserve in the Volta Region of Ghana. “It is a beautiful place, with a breath-taking view of the mountains and many rivers, streams and animals,” said the student, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in agribusiness at the University of Ghana. He already holds an undergraduate degree in education with a specialisation in agriculture.

Sevor is part of the field team of the European Union financed project Governing Multifunctional Landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa (GML), which is led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). He started working as a field enumerator in October 2020 with the Forest and Horticultural Crops Research Centre (FOHCREC) of the University of Ghana, a key project implementation partner. Sevor’s role is to conduct surveys among small-scale oil palm farmers.

Photo: Mawuli Kodzo Ericson Sevor interviewing an oil palm farmer

The farmers he is studying are from the Kwaebibirem Municipality of the Eastern Region of Ghana, an important area for oil palm production. His aim is to investigate oil palm biomass waste-to-energy models as critical components of landscape development strategies. “By trying to find out the kind of fuel used by farmers in the processing of oil palm, I have learned that many of them are using mesocarp fibres and empty palm oil fruit bunches as a source of fuel,” said the student.

Photo: Mawuli Kodzo Ericson Sevor interviewing an oil palm farmer in the farm.

However, he has also observed that other farmers use fuel wood from the nearby forests, including the Atiwa forest range.

“I would like to see farmers practising sustainable agricultural intensification and diversifying their income, while at the same time minimizing the felling of trees for fuel in oil palm processing,” Sevor said. This is why he wants to become an agribusiness consultant. “I want to develop and support the implementation of sustainable agribusiness models by offering training services to farmers and oil palm processors on how to become income secure in an environmental friendly way,” he added. Motivated by this goal, Sevor also works as a teacher at the Ohawu Agricultural College.