Pilot on FSC Certified Charcoal Production in Communal Areas kicks off
Launched on 17 March 2021, the “Commercialisation of Bush Biomass in Communal Areas through FSC certification” pilot project supports community forests to test suitable methods for harvesting and processing bush biomass in communal areas through sustainable charcoal production. The initiative is implemented by the Directorate of Forestry and the GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project in partnership with the De-bushing Advisory Service, a division of Namibia Biomass Industry Group with technical expertise by the CMO group.
Harvesting of woody resources for commercial use has been prohibited in communal areas. This is based on the experience, in both Namibia and elsewhere, that commercial harvesting of woody resources in communal areas possess multiple risks for overutilisation of these resources and less clarity on the accountability for commercial related activities such as charcoal production. To address the problem, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) through its Directorate of Forestry (DoF) is piloting a project to determine whether the known risks involved in commercial harvesting and utilisation can be avoided or minimised. With piloting, it is expected to develop suitable methods to control bush encroachment through sustainable bush harvesting and utilisation in communal areas and the best way that promotes fair benefit sharing. Most importantly, to promote good environmental practices that prevent land degradation and achieve sustainable utilisation of woody resources.
The six-month pilot project aims to promote the inclusiveness of the Namibian bush biomass and charcoal sector; to increase the Namibian FSC certified production capacity for potential export of Namibian bush biomass and charcoal; to foster communal compliance with international environmental and social standards; to promote collaboration with different stakeholders such as the De-bushing Advisory Service and the Namibia Charcoal Association as key players in information sharing and advising stakeholders on adhering to FSC standards, as well as to test the viability and showcasing of sustainable bush control and biomass utilisation in community forests.
It represents the first phase of testing in a communal setting and serves to certify three different Community Forests in Otjozondjupa Region; Ozonahi, Otjituuo and African Wild Dog to produce FSC certified charcoal for the local and export markets. During its officiation, the Director of Forestry, Mr Joseph Hailwa echoed that commercial activities in the communal areas are not fully authorised. The pilot project is an attempt to establish an appropriate way of doing so. The Director also stated that similar initiatives will be encouraged and supported if there are organised institutions in place such as community forests and based on the types and quantities of the given tree species to be harvested.
The Namibian biomass sector has almost doubled its employment from 6 000 to 11 000 in the last five years. Charcoal among other bush value chains is one way of addressing bush encroachment and restoring degraded rangelands for improved carrying capacity of livestock and creating a balanced ecosystem. It is the most well-developed bush biomass value chain and contributor to agricultural exports in the country. The value chain is also well positioned to see sustained growth over the next 5-10 years, largely due to its move towards Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and its relatively good perception within high-paying export markets (i.e. Europe). “We support a diversified and inclusive bush biomass sector providing room for semi-skilled labour and formal qualifications in support of semi-mechanised harvesting processes and local value chain development. Thus, the success of this pilot is key for the industry in supporting inclusive sustainable bush control and biomass solution” remarked the Namibian Biomass Industry Group’s CEO, Mr Progress Kashandula at the launch.
The FSC Sub-regional coordinator, Ms Manushka Moodley, commended Namibia’s certification progress for setting a record in 2020 with 1,6 million hectares of FSC certified area. She attributes the achievement to FSC’s active presence in Namibia in the last 20 years, the increase in market demand of responsibly sourced charcoal and the commitment of local stakeholders to responsible forest and woody resource management and utilisation. Ms Moodley stated that FSC will continue to work together with Namibian stakeholders in strengthening certification systems for responsible forest management.
A new labour-based bush harvesting booklet with guidelines covering harvesting, production, aftercare, health, and safety measures was launched at the event. Similarly, the GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project handed over drone equipment to the Directorate of Forestry in support of strengthening its monitoring capacity and surveillance of bush encroachment. “The drones will be used for bush biomass resource inspections during the issuance of harvesting permits and for mapping and monitoring vegetation cover. Five Forestry Officers received formal training on the use of drones”, said the Senior Technical Advisor of GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project, Mrs Pekeloye Kamenye.
The FSC communal pilot project was launched at Ozonahi Community Forest in Okakarara district by the Director of Forestry, Mr Joseph Hailwa in the company of the Environmental Commissioner, Mr Timoteus Mufeti of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. The event was also attended by the FSC Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Ms Manushka Moodley and the Kambazembi Traditional Authority’s Chief Sem Kambazembi.
De-bushing Advisory Service
Photo credits: ©GIZ/Tim Brunauer