Windhoek – Namibian has made more than US$200 million from charcoal exports over the past decade, thanks to improved production and programmes to empower communal farmers in the Southern African country.
The sector is increasingly looking to enhanced production from communal farmers for growth and sustainability, and the Namibian government and GIZ recently launched an initiative that targets greater participation of rural communities.
Namibia Charcoal Association manager Mr Michael Dege this week told The Southern Times that his organisation, which has established a “charcoal village” for research purposes in the country, was implementing a programme to boost foreign currency earnings by penetrating lucrative markets like China.
“We managed to export about 200,000 tonnes of charcoal last year alone at a cost of N$5,000 (about US$300) per tonne, so you can do the mathematics and see how beneficial this project is,” he said.
On the research facility set up by the association, Mr Dege said: “The fact that we have managed to set up a research village where we can now train different groups, including the youth, on how to sustainably produce charcoal spells a better future in terms of generating income.
“We have also made sure that the sustainability of the project is catered for through training the different groups that we will be working with.”
Mr Dege pointed out that stimulating charcoal production as well as bush-based fodder output would also stimulate agriculture in general and reduce Namibia’s reliance on the importation of stock feeds from South Africa, thus shrinking the national import bill.
“The most important thing right now is that we need to train the farmers who are into charcoal production to be able to do this in a manner that is environmentally friendly as well as in a way that supports the ecosystems surrounding them so we do not damage the environment.”
Mr Dege highlighted the advantages of the new technologies they were employing for charcoal production.
“There are actually numerous benefits to our improved charcoal production method; and one of them is that that the cleaner water produced enhances soil fertility and allows arable soil to hold moisture in it for quite some time, hence combating calamities such as drought and famine,” he said.