Firing up the biomass sector

Namibia faces significant challenges from bush encroached land, with estimates of 45 million hectares affected by this phenomenon.

05 November 2018 | Energy

Turning the challenge of encroacher bush into an opportunity requires innovation and partnership. In a joint effort to showcase current solutions, the Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG) recently organised a demonstration day for the public and role players.

Hosted at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) outside Otjiwarongo along with N-BiG in partnership with the Debushing Advisory Service (DAS) and the Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA), the event was attended by more than 400 people, comprising a diverse group that included harvesters, producers, communal farmers, commercial farmers, members of the public as well as mature and young entrepreneurs.

“The aim is to improve linkages among those with the biomass and entrepreneurs offering the services and technologies,” said Progress Kashandula, DAS general manager at the opening, adding that it was encouraging to see that some farmers' cooperatives and farmers' associations were eager to learn from the event.

The day of technology demonstrations showcased more than 30 technologies from 29 exhibitors along with over 15 live demonstrations, which included technology for bush-to-animal feed, firewood, woodchips, retort charcoal, compressed firewood, manual harvesting, semi-mechanized harvesting, fully-mechanized harvesting and drones.

N-BiG's general manager, Colin Lindeque, said that in Namibia seeing is believing. “Many farmers see brochures and videos but they don't believe it until they can see it in action. That is what this event is about. We tried to bring together farmers, SMEs and entrepreneurs to dispose of the brochures and sales talk to see the equipment in action for themselves.”

First-hand experience

According to a farmer from Epukiro, the event exposed him to the variety of machinery available for producing animal feed from encroacher bush. “We heard about the open day from DAS when they visited our community to share information about the economic opportunities of bush encroachment. But being here to see the machines in action, has given me a better idea about what I can do about this problem and also make profit.”

Vemuna Hengari and Kamaheke Kahuure who farm in the Omaheke region, said that the technologies for harvesting, making charcoal and biochar were most informative. “We are already planning on making small changes when we get back to the farm based on what we learned. We also saw the different types of kilns and retorts for making charcoal.”

For Namibian academics, the event also served as a platform to exhibit their research projects, one of which proposes a hydraulic cutter for Namibia-specific species of encroacher bush. “Being here was a great experience because people showed interest in our project and gave us their expert knowledge, ideas and advice. The exchange will contribute to further research,” said a student from the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

N-BiG's Lindeque said that the event was designed to build momentum towards a bioeconomy in Namibia and to foster inclusivity and networking among existing and future role-players. “We welcome anyone to join the industry group who sees a future for themselves in turning bush encroachment from a problem into a viable economic opportunity. As we have seen by the participation in Namibia's first Biomass Day, there is interest from different farmers, generations and genders. We at N-BiG welcome this diversity and are already making space for growth at next year's event.”

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