The dire emergency resulting from the devastating drought experienced over all of Namibia, is fast re-creating a (char)coal fired industry, of which the full potential is yet to be realised.
Already, more than 10 000 jobs has been created in the biomass industry for this year, while charcoal exports has rocketed to around 200 000 tonnes of charcoal. This is in comparison to around 120 000 tonnes last year.
According to the managing director of the Namibian Charcoal Association, Michael Degé, the surface of the bio-industry derived from the troublesome invader bush on about one million hectares of good farmland, has barely been scratched with immense potential still to be unlocked.
Especially by products derived from the invasive species, needs attention as the development of the industry is progressing.
At a farmer’s day at Outjo on November 20, a plant for, amongst other things, the extraction of humid acid, tar, oils, turpentine and alcohols will be demonstrated. This is the results of the NCA’s compilation of research and insights on the budding industry that is taking Namibia by storm.
Work on the problem of invader bush has been going on forever, but as a result of the current drought, activity in establishing a proper, well organised and very profitable industry picked up speed.
As an earner of foreign currency for Namibia, problem bush species now took a position second to none and saved many farmers from losing their means of survival.
In current circumstances, the spark that started an explosion of activity in the industry was boskos and tine milling machines imported from India by the likes of Hochland Tractor and others. The boskos were mixed with other feedstock to assure the survival of core herds on overgrazed farms that took the full brunt of the drought, when there were virtually nothing left to eat on the land.
That sparked greater activity in the charcoal industry as a means of cash income, while the production and export of fire wood picked up exponentially.
The next logical step was the development of a viable bio-char industry with a variety of uses, from energy generation, chips for wood fired boilers, products for the manufacturing industry, and many more.
At the heart of the industry lies survival, cash flow, the retention of agri-employment and adherence to trade, labour and humanitarian laws, written and unwritten.
While the NCA relies heavily on strict laws laid down by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to assure and safeguard markets in the European Union and South-Africa, many independent operators are still not registered as such and are exploring markets where certification as stewards of the forests are not requested as a marketing condition.
The value of the bush industry cannot now yet be judged in terms of the poor depressed economy, the current drought and the contribution to climate change, industrialisation of the agricultural sector or the production of food and grazing in the future.
None the less, the quick progression of the well organised industry was a god sent in the worst of times and now progressed into an industry of note.