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Sudan is joining forces with Brazil and Egypt to develop biofuels.

Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir unveiled the country's first biofuel plant earlier this month (10 June).

The plant — located about 250 kilometres from the capital city Khartoum — was built in cooperation with the Brazilian company Dedini. It aims to produce 200 million litres of ethanol from sugar cane within the next two years.

Sudan is also collaborating with Egypt on the development of biofuels using non-edible crops.

The second project, worth US$150 million, will carry out research into the production of ethanol from rice straw. Such cellulosic ethanol fuel produced using non-food plant sources, including agricultural waste such as the stalks and leaves of crops — can also reduce the polluting practice of burning agricultural waste.

In Egypt, burning agricultural waste such as rice straw has produced thick smog across the country, causing record levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide (see 'Black cloud' hides lack of support for rural farmers).       

Eltayeb Mohamed Abdelgadir, a researcher at the Sudan-based Agricultural Research Corporation, says the projects are good examples of South–South cooperation which will "lead to the transfer of technology and knowledge between developing countries, the development of scientific human resources and eventually promote knowledge-based economic development".

"Sudan is well-suited for biofuel production because of its vast, uncultivated land and low agricultural and labour costs — which will provide new income for farmers and an alternative source of energy for Africa," Abdelgadir adds.

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a plant biotechnologist at the Egyptian National Research Centre, told SciDev.Net that producing biofuels from agricultural waste without sacrificing food supplies could positively impact Africa's food security and environment.