Everybody is aware of the need to protect Africa’s rainforests and that these rainforests are an important carbon sink and are vital in preventing or reversing climate change. Everybody is aware that illegal logging practices by multinational organizations are destroying the rainforests as the timber they extract from these forests is becoming extremely valuable. What isn’t known is that in Africa over 90% of the wood taken from forests is for wood fuel. The majority is consumed directly as fuel wood however a various but substantial amount is transformed into charcoal.
More than 80% is used in urban areas making charcoal the most important source of household energy in many African cities. The city of Dar es Salem, people use as much as 600 000 tons of charcoal per year and in Mozambique the urban area of Maputo uses about 200.000 tons of charcoal per year. Whereas between 300 000 – 350.000 tons have been reported for the town of Kampala, Uganda. For the later an increase of consumption of about 50% was observed between the last decades. Annual production in Kenya was estimated to be around 2 million tons and households are consuming between 350 and 600 kg annually. It is estimated that about 2 million people are economically dependent on charcoal production, transport and trade.
It is becoming increasingly popular among households in Dar Es Salem for the use of charcoal; there are several reasons for this. It has double the energy content of fuel wood, it is light weight and thus easy to transport, it is easy to store over a long period of time, it produces less fumes and noxious compounds when burned. In most cities it is cheaper than to kerosene, LPG or electricity. It has an image of modern energy or in the words of a Mozambique retailer “it sells well, it doesn’t go rotten and children don’t steal it”. The importance of charcoal is also reflected by the fact that four African countries rank amongst eight countries with the highest production worldwide.
The importance of the charcoal industry on the average African household is very hard to establish as it is all part of the informal sector but does represent up to 60% of annual income in some households. In Dar es Salem, about 2 million consumer use charcoal. Assuming a value of US$100 for 1 ton of charcoal this represents a value in excess of US$60 million. It is estimated that in the region around the capital around 120.000 jobs depend on production, transport or the sale of charcoal. In the region of the Chiposa project village household obtained 50-70% of cash income from the woodlands with charcoal being the most important commodity.
Both men and women are in involved in charcoal production. During the last decade charcoal production area had to be extended and nowadays charcoal is transported, on average 200km by truck or train to the cities in Mozambique. There are even reports that charcoal is transported over 600km by train after a railway had been restored after the civil war. The reason for this is the over use of the forest in the vicinity of Maputo, which have a rather low to nil regeneration capacity compared to other forest types.
Zambia, total charcoal consumption of Lusaka is in excess of 250 000 tons serving about 180 000 households. The economic value of charcoal places charcoal production the third most important economic activity after agriculture and copper production. Income per capata from charcoal production was about twice the income than from agriculture. About 48% of the producers make charcoal throughout the year, where as 50% produce during the dry or wet season only. It is estimated that 78 000 jobs depend on the charcoal business.
Kenya, 2 million tons of charcoal is consumed annually. The charcoal industry contributes an estimated US500 million to the Kenyan economy making it an important economic factor. Several hundred thousand people are involved in production and trade of charcoal making it number four in employment generation after agriculture and forestry, manufacturing in the public sector and services. It is estimated that a total of about 2 million people are dependent on the charcoal industry either directly or indirectly. It becomes clear that at present that it is very difficult if not impossible to obtain conclusive figures on the African charcoal industry, nevertheless it also becomes clear charcoal is an important factor in many African economies. However the importance of charcoal should not be limited to its economic role.
Charcoal is produced from wood by a complex process called carbonization. Carbonization occurs at temperatures between 450 – 600 degrees C in the absence of air. Under these conditions organic vapours and gasses are lost a part of the organic substances polymer all of which increases the carbon content of the product. After the process is finished charcoal is the final remains. One of the factors effecting quality as well as the yield is temperature. At relatively low temperatures of around 300 degree C a high yield of charcoal is obtained. This charcoal has a high content of volatile material which is undesirable because it produces noxious fumes during use. Temperatures around 600 degrees C give lower yields but the charcoal has a lower content of volatiles making it preferred fuel. Charcoal can be made from both hardwood and softwood; however hardwood is usually preferred because the charcoal has higher energy content and is easier to handle.
The major problem related to charcoal production is deforestation. The other serious problem is that in reality there is no alternative to other fuel sources or energy sources for the majority of Africans. Power is only available in the cities, there is no natural gas infrastructure and coal is mined at very expensive prices and used primarily in power production or industry.
Green Earth Africa through its associations with governments and local communities are introducing a reaforestation project on land which has been previously cleared of all vegetation for the production of charcoal. Through their reafforestation projects Green Earth Africa will be planting indigenous species the forerunner’s being Albizia Coriaria which is a very fast growing indigenous tree with a very large canopy. This tree sequests large amounts of carbon dioxide and can be planted very easily and very cheaply and requires minimum maintenance of the forests. Other species are Markhamia, Agrandibereata, Croton Macrostachgs and Acacia Polyacantha. These plantations under the management of Green Earth Africa will be eligible for certified carbon offsets and land available in various countries is in excess of 600.000 hectares. Green Earth Africa will also embark on commercial timber plantations using such trees as teak, paulownia and eucalyptus.2 of these trees (eucalyptusand paulownias) are exotic to Africa but have been introduced throughout the continent. Eucalyptus is relatively hard wood and is an extremely useful tree. There are many valuable assets to the eucalyptus plantation some of these are the production of poles for electricity lines, construction. etc These poles grow very straight and are very strong. It has large uses in the construction industry once cut and sawn into planks, the pulp from the eucalyptus trees is used widely throughout the paper manufacturer and chip board manufacture for construction companies. Another very useful component to the eucalyptus is its oil for medicinal purposes, 70% of which is exported to China and more recently in the production of bio-fuels. Paulownia or the princess tree as it is more commonly known is a fast growing hardwood. The timber is extremely valuable and highly prized. Because it has a broad canopy and is self generating it is a high carbon sequester.
Green Earth Africa will also work with local charcoal producers and supply a feed stock for the production of charcoal to ensure that this charcoal production continues but without the destruction of the rainforests. Through working with local communities on charcoal production, Green Earth Africa will be able to ensure that the producers receive at fair price for their production of charcoal. Currently 70% of the end price of charcoal is made up of transport and middlemen costs. Through its various associations, contacts and partnerships, Green Earth Africa will be able to assist with the correct production procedures, transportation and in future set up a charcoal trading operation in each of the major cities so that all charcoal can be sold through the one market at fixed fair prices for the consumer and for the producer. Unfortunately the use of charcoal is not going to go away in Africa but it is going to increase. An off shoot of this industry will be the sweepings and dust, currently discarded. These sweepings are becoming a valuable source of organic fertilizer known as BIO CHAR, and are a valuable commodity which assists in building up the soil structure and replacing lost carbon from agricultural practices.
The planets consumption of forestry products has more than doubled over the last 30 years as global population continues to grow. The increased demand for forestry products has also lead to the need for the protection of forest and wildlife and more public participation in forestry management. The demand for the imported raw materials for the China low cost timber manufacturing industry is increasing sharply and establishing more expansive markets for international suppliers. The forestry community in the Asia Pacific region which is close to the shipping routes from Africa and posses an advantage to the African industry in greater periods of harvesting and re-growth due to their tropical climate in comparison to other countries that experience periods of dormancy during their winter months.
The climate in southern Africa enables growers in the region to cope with ever shifting goals and expectations associated with the rapid evolution of social, economic and environmental issues, impact policies and legislation institutions. The increasing demand was rapidly exploited in many areas by timber operations that strip forests bare with no regard of their environmental damage or replacing the timber resources being consumed. This mercenary behavior was responded to with strict and immediate regulation and monitoring of the industry by governments, environmental agencies, and consumer advocacy groups on lumbering operations worldwide. Despite the increase in demand the shortages of suppliers who are able to meet environmental standards have caused the forestry industry to shrink by an estimated 9.4 million hectares per annum. To compound this fact, as mentioned above, is the charcoal industry persistent throughout the whole of Africa.
The forestry industry involves the cultivation of seedlings ,planting, fire control, wet land protection, harvesting ,plank production, milling, fire added processing, chip manufacture, shipping, manufacturing and carbon offset trading. Globally the industry has been pressured from many directions. Governments have attempted to improve the forestry industry with privatization measures which transfers the property rights through the sale of natural forest or planned forest. Green Earth Africa is not looking at privatizing natural resources but rather establishing everything on a leasehold arrangement with governments with the profits continually re invested in creating more and more plantations, community development, job creation, poverty elevation and environmental issues.
Global paper consumption trends continue to move higher confirming its utility is a low cost high performance and flexible material. Paper has been labeled by many as essential for development and modern living. Global consumption has increased by at least 25% during the twentieth century and by a factor of three in the last 3 decades alone. The Asian demand for timber and pulp supply has increased due to the rapid increase expansion of its economy and one of the largest population densities. The drives of demands of business and home uses of computer require more pens and paper, higher living standards and uses of books, magazines and packing boxes. The same factors also drive the increased demand for eucalyptus oil which China uses over 70% of the worlds production and is projected to increase as well as demand for the wood chips which is one of the principal ingredients for manufacturing chipboard. Many experts believe China’s usage for such material will continue to rise for the next 30 years.
Green Earth Africa through its reaforestation programs, recognize not only the value of restoration of previously tropical rain forest lands but also the importance of the carbon offset market, the charcoal market and export markets for timber products to the Asia Pacific countries. This will in turn lead to massive job creation.
Green Earth Africa will maintain the highest level of conservation in environmental protection of its ecosystem, safeguarding and enriching areas of natural and indigenous forest to protect unique flora and fauna and promote bio-diversity. The concept of sustainable forest management will ensure corporate contribution to the country, its people and their future and maximize a company’s carbon sequestration goals which help compact global climate change. Our environmental management objectives are to promote the re-colonization of natural vegetation and bio-diversity through enrichment planting regimes in the remaining natural and riparian forest within indigenous species found in the local environment. Green Earth Africa will also establish commercially viable reafforestation projects using exotic timbers which flourish within the region. We will enhance water quality and quantity by limiting erosion and subsequent saltation of wetlands areas and streams and combat erosion.
There are many schemes and companies available offering corporations or individuals to sponsor a tree, buy a tree. These prices range from US$10 to as high as US$30. Airlines are promoting carbon offset programmes which gives the customer the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions during their flight. A lot of these funds are put into reaforestation projects in parts of Africa but the price is in excess of US$10 a tree, which Green Earth Africa finds astronomical. Green Earth Africa are able to plant a tree for less than US$1.00 by purchasing US$10.00 worth of trees which in other companies would only allow you to plant one tree Green Earth Africa guarantees it will plant in excess of 10 trees for that US$10.00. These trees will all be indigenous trees planted in areas where the exisiting forrest has been cut down, or on marginal areas areas around the existing forest to increase the area of forrest. These plantations will not be for commercial purposes, other then to increase the carbon sink of the natural forest. If parties are interested in getting involved in our coomercail reforestation projects please follow the link to the investments page. Companies are able to finance the planting of trees or purchase trees in our plantations and benefit not only from the green credentials and carbon credits produced from these trees which Green Earth Africa will award to its company but it will also benefit in seven years time from the sale of these eucalyptus products and the customer will have the choice to reinvest these precedes back into new plantations or receive a dividend for the sale of the products. For every number of trees you buy you will also be awarded the carbon offsets which are created from these plantations. If one tree sequests 1.2kgs of carbon dioxide per year, the number of trees which you purchase, the number of carbon offsets will be calculated and your company will be awarded this carbon offset on an annual basis. It is not a one off carbon offset, your company will benefit from these offsets from the day the tree is planted into the foreseeable future.
Join our unique environmental offset reward scheme, for every tree you or your company purchase points will be credited to your loyalty card , once points are accumulated you can spend them at our online community product shop, pay for your flights, even use them to visit one of our unique safari camps. We will look after everything for you and we will certainly look after you when you arrive. Please follow our link for more information on the purchasing these trees and how you will benefit from these offsets and loyalty points scheme.