Bamboo Charcoal: A Green Biofuel For Africa?

Bamboo, a plant often associated with China and pandas, may be the key to combating soil degradation and massive deforestation in Africa as an alternative source of energy.

Bamboo: A Green Biofuel For Africa?

Bamboo, a plant often associated with China and pandas, may be the key to combating soil degradation and massive deforestation in Africa as an alternative source of energy.

Sub-Saharan Africa has over 2.75 million hectares of bamboo forest, equivalent to roughly 4 percent of the continent’s total forest cover.

A partnership among African nations and communities, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), and China are working to replace forest wood, on which 80 percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa depends for its fuel needs, with bamboo charcoal and firewood.

At the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa today, initial successes with bamboo charcoal in Ethiopia and Ghana have prompted calls across the continent for greater investment in this ‘green biofuel’ that can fight deforestation and mitigate climate change.

“Bamboo, the perfect biomass grass, grows naturally across Africa and presents a viable, cleaner and sustainable alternative to wood fuel,” said Dr. J. Coosje Hoogendoorn, Director General of INBAR.

“Without such an alternative, wood charcoal will remain the primary household energy source for decades to come—with disastrous consequences,” Dr. Hoogendoorn said.

Burning wood has a significant impact on the climate, with African households releasing the equivalent of 6.7 billion tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by 2050, according to estimates by scientists.

In terms of health, the burning of fuel wood claims the lives of an estimated 2 million people every year – mostly women and children – who inhale the smoke. Continued widespread indoor use of forest wood charcoal as a household fuel could cause 10 million premature deaths by 2030.

Years of deforestation, particularly in hard-hit Somalia, have eliminated fragile forests and turned sparsely forested dry lands and pastures into useless desert, according to researchers from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Bamboo is a resource-efficient source of energy

While it takes seven to ten tons of raw wood to produce one ton of wood charcoal, the entire bamboo plant, including the stem, branch and its rhizome, can be used to produce charcoal, making it highly resource-efficient, with limited wastage. Its high heating value also makes it an efficient fuel.

Also, bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, and tropical bamboos can be harvested after just three years, rather than the two to six decades needed to generate a timber forest.

China is a global leader in the production and use of bamboo charcoal, made through the controlled burning of bamboo in kilns, whether traditional, metal, or brick. The sector is worth an estimated US$1 billion a year and employs over 60,000 people in more than 1,000 businesses.

Together with Chinese partners, including the Nanjing Forestry University and WENZHAO Bamboo Charcoal Co., INBAR’s Bamboo as Sustainable Biomass Energy initiative is now transferring China’s advanced bamboo charcoal technologies to sub-Saharan Africa.

The technology is being scaled up to produce bamboo charcoal briquettes for cooking because they burn longer and produce less smoke and air pollution than ‘natural’ charcoal.

Source / Fuente: www.asianscientist.com

Author / Autor: INBAR 

Date / Fecha: 02/12/11

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3 comentarios en “Bamboo Charcoal: A Green Biofuel For Africa?

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