OTJIWARONGO - The Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and private partnerships recently launched a charcoal village research and development centre in Otjiwarongo, Otjozondjupa region.
The centre was developed to upskill charcoal workers and processors and will be used as a satellite for field trainings, demonstrations and pilot projects on harvesting techniques as well as production processes.
“We saw a huge surplus of charcoal as many producers turned to charcoal after the severe drought that hit the country last year,” Isak Katali, NCA chairperson pointed out. According to Katali, the former minister of mines and energy, the centre will be mainly used for research and development as well as demonstrations on new and old charcoal technology, combined with improved burning processes.
Speaking at the launch, Katali said the first micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) pilot training is planned until mid-July 2020. It is aimed at empowering charcoal producers with new sustainable production techniques that are environmentally friendly.
He said this pilot phase will inform more training sessions in the nearer future for about 1000 youth in line with the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade (MIT)’s charcoal growth at home strategy to ensure that the industry is enhanced at all levels of the value chain.
On his part, MIT executive director Michael Humavindu said, “The ministry is committed to greening the charcoal sector. We will spearhead the establishment of Namibia standards for charcoal production to provide a conducive environment for producers.”
According to Humavindu, the ministry will further support the establishment of a testing facility to allow adherence to international standards and allow products to be tested in Namibia.
NCA has already developed and successfully implemented new burning techniques on a number of farms. The centre will combine demonstrations on both new and old charcoal technology such as the smoke distillation equipment that harvests wood acid and tar.
This equipment reduces the smoke emission by at least 60%, in some instances even more than that. The smoke travels through a condenser pipe and a black box into a chimney. In the black box, tar and wood acid is collected. Each burning cycle produces around 40 litres of wood acid. Wood acid, and specifically humic acid, derived from the wood acid, is food for bacteria in the soil and thus reduces fertiliser input. Both wood acid and tar can be used on the farm or sold.
In 2019, charcoal exports constituted 17% of total agricultural exports. The NCA recorded 140 000 tonnes of charcoal produced by its members in 2019, an estimated 195,000 tonnes of charcoal was produced by the industry.
“This figure will increase in 2020, as many members have enrolled with us,” echoed Katali.