Global NTFP Partnership:Charcoal and Communities Conference Planned for Mozambique in 2007

Charcoal and Communities Conference Planned for 2007
Global Non-Timber Forest Products Partnership (NTFP) September 14, 2006

Making Charcoal From Bamboo (GNTFP)Making Charcoal From Bamboo (GNTFP)

A conference is planned under the framework of the Global Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) Partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative under the aegis of GFAR which was launched in December 2005 and which has partners from the governmental, non-governmental, and private sectors as well as international organizations. The initiative has declared 2006 the International Year of Charcoal. Partners that are in a position to contribute relevant experiences, knowledge, technology, etc. include INBAR, CIBART, InHand Abra Foundation, etc.

By bringing together African policy makers, stakeholders and international experts, this conference will facilitate the understanding of trends in deforestation and forest depletion due to production and use of charcoal in Africa and how this ever growing problem can be addressed to meet the energy needs of the rural and urban poor.

There is a need to explore possibilities for cross-border information exchange, technology transfer and capacity-building, based on existing advanced technologies and adaptive capacities in potential recipient countries. Private sector involvement will be an important aspect of such interventions. The conference will provide this opportunity.

It will also address the need for development of appropriate, harmonized policy intervention strategies towards meeting energy requirements without harming the forest cover. This goes to the protection of indigenous forest, as well as the possibility to enhance regeneration and plantation of alternatives for charcoal production, such as bamboo that can be harvested annually without clearcutting, and similar woody biomass resources which also have multipurpose uses and therefore could become attractive alternatives.

Importantly, charcoal production from rapidly growing renewable resources without harming standing forest, could provide the needed energy in rural and urban areas of Africa. Unlike fuelwood, charcoal also has the attraction that it can be stored even for long periods without degradation and insect attack. It can thus become an important means of ensuring rural energy security.

Distributed systems of charcoal production in efficient units (by rural communities) backed by the growing of woody biomass resources (by rural communities) and coupled with an efficient means of collection to secure adequate volumes has much potential for meeting larger scale industrial requirements and also for coal liquefaction to derive petroleum derivatives. Several countries are now starting to set up fossil coal based liquefaction plants, given the high prices of crude. While coal is the cause of considerable pollution and also releases fixed carbon into the air, a charcoal-based approach on renewable woody biomass (and not forest trees) would be a cyclic use of the existing carbon dioxide in the air, and not add to it. If plants like bamboo are used for this purpose, given its perennial growth habit and annual harvesting of matured poles would still leave a substantial incremental carbon sink in place. It should also be possible to derive carbon credit benefits if surplus charcoal is produced in the manner above, and stored in appropriate storage areas, perhaps underground. Either way, the production of charcoal would contribute significantly to rural incomes, and if made into petroleum products, provide an attractive product in a suppliers market. Any move from coal to sustainable charcoal production would lead to a significant increase in rural employment and income whereas coal based systems would be rural-employment and rural-income neutral .

This conference is also important in order to understand that the production and marketing of traditional biomass fuels cannot only be stabilized, while arresting deforestation and contributing to ecological conservation, but that it can become a highly effective social and economic rural development strategy. The stabilization of the traditional energy sector based on charcoal essentially depends on the implementation of comprehensive changes in the wood fuels’ supply system and chains. While demand management are important and need to be pursued-especially dissemination of improved end use technologies and practices – that alone cannot resolve the existing problem. The establishment of environmentally and socially sustainable charcoal supply systems can only be achieved through the introduction of integrated community-based forestry and natural resource management based programs.

The objectives of this international conference are as follows:

* To understand the severity of dependence on wood for energy needs in Africa and globally
* To better understand charcoal flows, specifically (i) to understand the trends in deforestation due to charcoal production, (ii) to identify areas suitable for charcoal production not currently utilized, and (iii) to find effective and alternative sources of charcoal production, in order to curb deforestation and global warming, including the promotion of bamboo for bio-energy
* To propose possible policy interventions that can be carried out in order to secure the supply of charcoal to the low-income population and to mitigate adverse effects of charcoal production
* To explore the potential and facilitate technology transfer and adaptation
* To establish a network and create a community of practice
* To develop project concept notes
* To raise awareness and create interest among the donor community

This International Conference on Charcoal and Communities in Africa will put the global spotlight on this important commodity. A series of papers will address the key issues. Other contributed papers would highlight cases, success stories and other issues. Technology providers would be invited to make presentations and put up stands at the exhibition. Project marketplace and roundtable discussions will be arranged wherein interested donors could “buy” projects they find interesting in concept and the geographical areas they operate in. Specifically, outputs will include:

* Case studies on technology, policy, experiences, outlook
* Policy recommendations/Plan of Action
* Proceedings
* Project concept notes
* Network/Community of Practice

INBAR is seeking financial support from various donors towards this international conference.