THE central theme of discussion on Friday at the annual Biomass Technology Expo 2019 was that encroacher bush on nearly 40 million hectares of rangeland in Namibia is worth big money.
Farmers, communal land occupiers and industrialists should grasp the moment and, with the help of foreign and local knowledge, develop the biomass industry to become a mainstay of the domestic economy.
Namibia is uniquely blessed with a problem of invader bush that holds massive potential to grow its ailing economy, supply employment to thousands of entrants into the labour market and contribute to energy supply to a number of other sectors.
On Friday, at the beautiful Otjiwa Safari Lodge, Mr. W. P. Barnard and his family, played host to the hundreds of interested visitors to the annual Biomass Technology Expo, welcoming them to a site to behold, when rhino were fed right next to the entry road leading to the main lodge where activities were in full swing since early morning.
Activities kicked off with the Namibia Charcoal Association’s annual general meeting, while exhibitors opened their offers to visitors, with a clear message that they know what and when the market needs what and where.
As such, semi- and fully mechanised plant to harvest, cut, chop, grind, pelletize, bag, pack and weigh invader bush was demonstrated, shown off and sold on the spot.
Obviously the merchants had to deal with practical farmers who knows the value of their cattle and produce and who are very much aware of what works best on a Namibian farm.
That quickly shifted the discussions to the production capacities of the weird and wonderful machines to the current drought which is described as the worst in 100 years and to the search for outcomes.
Then the talk was all about feeder mixes, because bush alone might not be enough. Obviously, the cost per unit of ration was put under the spotlight, and so it went on.
At the end, the big question was asked; what happens when the drought is over at last?
Can the industry be sustained when farmers are not pressed to produce fodder by all means possible?
The answer given by speaker after speaker in a range of lectures and informative talks, was a qualified yes…. bearing in mind that Namibia is already a noted exporter of charcoal, firewood, locally supply wood chips for the generation of electricity and a number of other uses.
Fact remains, the drought might pass, but the need for feeding animals will remain. The market for charcoal and wood chips will remain and growth of the bio-industry must be prioritized.
Thus the work of organizing farmers, as the NCA is doing, will remain important, while the industry facilitator, the Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG), in conjunction with its affiliates and partners, will have to remain at the forefront of developing this exciting industry.
It remains a work in progress.