Youth Concept for Sustainable Charcoal Production and Bush Biomass Utilisation Developed

The Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service together with National Youth Service (NYS) and National Youth Council (NYC) have identified opportunities that contribute to youth self-employment in the agriculture sector.  “We have seen an opportunity for youth employment in the biomass sector and its significance to the upliftment of the Namibian economy.” Shivute Katamba, Acting Executive Director of Ministry of Youth, remarked during the handover of the Charcoal and Biomass Utilisation Business concept. 

To guide their efforts, the Ministry collaborated with De-bushing Advisory Service (DAS), a capacity development division of the Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG). Financial support for the concept development was provided by the Government of Germany, through the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project implemented by GIZ in collaboration with Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

To date, estimates are that 45 million hectares of rangeland are severely affected by bush thickening in Namibia. Despite the negative consequences of bush encroachment, it creates opportunities and multiple benefits. Bush can be selectively harvested and processed to create income in the short-term and help to restore rangeland in the long-term.

Team Leader of the GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation Project, Johannes Laufs, acknowledged the efforts by the Ministry of Youth for enabling the biomass sector to expand, by serving the most active demography in the country. “GIZ implements its bush control project on behalf of the Government of Germany, in collaboration with the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. Our objective is to upscale sustainable bush control and biomass utilisation, restoring degraded land and creating income opportunities. Our assistance is aimed to strengthen the capacities of relevant government authorities and to develop sustainable bush-based value chains.  We very much welcome the initiative by Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service to open up the economic opportunities of the bush-biomass sector to the Namibian Youth, especially those living in rural areas.”

Since 2016, the De-bushing Advisory Services has been involved in the bush-biomass sector with an emphasis on strengthening capacities of both individual farmers, government officials, and the industry at large to promote sustainable bush control and biomass utilisation. The Namibian biomass sector has almost doubled its employment from 6,000 to 11,000 within the past five years and put in place important measures ensuring environmental and social sustainability, such as internationally recognised sustainability certification standards. The goal is to further grow and modernise the sector. Charcoal production has become a major contributor to agricultural exports, in 2019 charcoal exports constituted 17 per cent of total agricultural exports. Further, charcoal is one of the government’s growth focus sectors and a vital pillar in developing the overall bioeconomy in Namibia.

“A vibrant bush-biomass sector will provide room for unskilled labour as well as for formal qualifications, this is in line with strategic development goals and Namibia’s development agenda. This concept is an immediate solution to youth unemployment.  It provides a clear operational plan for sustainable charcoal production including capacity building, equipment, marketing, permitting process, and other resource needs. It clearly identifies the opportunity in the biomass sector and links it to the current situation of unemployment, the youth should successfully be trained in sustainable  charcoal production in order to open up their own SMEs and expand employment opportunities for other Namibian youth” Progress Kashandula, Chief Executive Officer of N-BiG points out.

The Deputy Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Honourable Emma Kantema-Gaomas expressed appreciation and gratitude to the De-bushing Advisory Service for developing the Charcoal and Biomass Utilisation Business concept to guide the Ministry  and ensure that the youth are given an opportunity to participate in this very important sector and benefit from the country’s natural resource in a sustainable manner. The Honourable Deputy Minister further alluded that commercialising the biomass resource for charcoal production provides great opportunities to Namibian youth. The charcoal production project will speak directly to youth empowerment, employment creation objectives and the diversification of economic activities. “The concept could not have come at a better time as the youth is the most affected by the economic crisis of job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a year like 2020. Every step we take towards self-sufficiency as a nation is everything that we need”.

The National Youth Service has identified Gemsbokpan farm for piloting the charcoal production project. The pilot phase will create employment opportunities for 55 youth who will undergo two types of training, namely, civic training to instil discipline, a sense of responsibility and ownership as well as harvesting and charcoal making. The project will be launched on the 31 October 2020 at Gemsbokpan farm in Grootfontein, Otjozondjupa region.   

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