Cajouvalor: transforming cashew nuts into energy

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In 2011, RONGEAD, an NGO that helps small producers in developingcountries, teamed up with CEFREPADE, the French-speaking Centre for Partnerships in Sanitation, Waste and the Environment, to develop the Cajouvalor project. The goal of the project is to develop a technology to turn cashew nut shells into energy. Interview with Pascale Naquin, the Director of CEFREPADE.

Pascale Naquin, director of CEFREPADE

What is the point of the Cajouvalor project?

Pascale Naquin: This project aims to use a waste, cashew nut shells, to generate energy thanks to a H2CP, or High Calorific Cashew Pyrolyser. This system transforms waste from cashew nut shells into two types of fuel: pyrolysis gas that can be used to fuel a boiler, and biochar for domestic or professional use, that can be sold to local population as a substitute for charcoal, which often comes from unmanaged forests that are under threat.

How was the project born?

P.N.: RONGEAD contacted us in 2011. The teams in Burkina Faso had already noticed that small producers and processors of cashew nuts did not use the by-products, which was not the case in India, Vietnam and Brazil, which were consequently more competitive. We were faced with an economic problem directly related to a need for energy. So we called on a number of students from the Lyon INSA engineering school for their scientific expertise in order to develop this project, which resulted in initial tests on a pilot that costed no more than €50. Proof that significant scientific experiments do not always cost a fortune!

How does this project meet local needs?

P.N.: The cashew nut shells are often burned to produce energy, resulting in serious environmental problems. The phenolic oil in the shells does not burn well, and produces acid fumes that are very polluting and irritating. Cajouvalor proposes a cheap solution that is easy to use by local people, virtuous, and that creates jobs, so that the local population can benefit from free fuel and increase their competitive performance by selling a transformed product. Many of the growers do not have the means of reusing the waste, which is why they do not break up the shells, because this process demands heat in order to make them more fragile. Now they can sell their shelled nuts for a much higher price.

What does the future hold for Cajouvalor?

P.N. : Since we produce large quantities of coal and gas with just a few shells, we could possibly use it to dry mango, or in cotton oil factories, or even in companies that produce soap locally and could use this surplus of energy. And we could even produce electricity from the gas and the charcoal to supply local households with electricity. In a word, this solution can be adapted to different markets, for use in small and even very large structures. The Cajouvalor project recently received the SUEZ – Institut de France Award in the “Access to essential services” category. This award has really helped our initiative, which now has a real chance to expand worldwide. I will be in Haiti in October, where I will try to promote the benefits of growing cashew nut trees for the purposes of reforestation, but also to develop a profitable agricultural activity.


Since 2012, the Fondation SUEZ and the Institut de France have rewarded initiatives that favour access to essential services (water, sanitation and waste management) in developing countries. For more information about the Cajouvalor project and other prize-winners, visit the dedicated website.


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