Charcoal industry gears up to benefit from ‘black gold’

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-The Namibian charcoal industry is set to introduce a new chapter in the history of the provider of Namibia’s own “black gold” at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the newly formed Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA) this Friday at Otjiwa Safari Lodge, outside Otjiwarongo.

Namibia is the fifth largest exporter of charcoal in the world and the industry generates about N$200 million per year from exports. The sector employs between 5,000 and 6,000 workers, and experts forecast a four-fold growth that could lead to the creation of between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs.

The extremely important AGM will be followed by a conference and expo to showcase the immense progress the industry has made since last year when the Support to De-bushing Project of the Germany In Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) initiative in collaboration with the NCA embarked on a pilot project to conduct a technical analysis of existing charcoal production technologies in Namibia and compare them to the best internationally. Research shows that the charcoal industry is one of the booming sectors in Namibia. This is also a sector which is highly contested due to its nature of production (i.e. safety of workers and environmental and social impacts).

Moreover, the industry plays a critical role in de-bushing, and it is forecast that with the growth of the industry up to 200 000 hectares could be de-bushed annually.

A report has been drafted containing recommendations for a pilot of new/improved technology, which started in January 2017. This very special and important event is designed to create camaraderie and involvement among all role players in the charcoal and wood industry.

One of the key objectives is to improve current steel drum kiln technology to reduce smoke emission, reduce health risks, as well as improve charcoal conversion rates.

The industry also aims to expand and diversify target markets. Currently, the major markets for Namibian charcoal are South Africa, the United Kingdom, Angola, Greece and Germany. Prof Joseph Diescho will be the keynote speaker on the day.

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