Towards a sustainable charcoal production

An aerial view of the tree nursery in the project community of Mognori, Savannah Region. Photo: A Rocha Ghana

How an IKI project supports the development of a sustainable and efficient charcoal production in Ghana.

More than half a million of fast-growing trees have been planted in the last three months by ten rural communities in Ghana. These trees will serve as a resource to produce sustainable charcoal and firewood. Charcoal is with 34,1% the main cooking fuel in Ghana followed by firewood (33,3%) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, 24,5% - Ghana Statistical Service, GLSS 7, 2019). The demand for charcoal in Ghana is still rising and its production mainly takes place by logging hard wood tree species from natural forests mainly in the Transitional and Savannah zones. This leads to a high deforestation and forest degradation in these zones due to unsustainable and unregulated practices and the inefficient production of charcoal using mainly traditional earth mound kilns. 

IKI supports the planting of energy wood plantations

The International Climate Initiative (IKI)  aims at establishing best practices for a sustainable and efficient charcoal production. Together with its local project partners, ten rural communities were selected in two charcoal producing hotspots (Savannah and Bono East Regions). In cooperation with the Forestry Commission three community-based tree nurseries were established with a capacity of more than one million seedlings. Community members, mainly women, were trained by the local Forest Service Division in raising tree seedlings and nursery management. 

With the start of the rainy season in May 2021 planting of the raised tree seedlings has started with the aim to establish energy-wood plantations in each community. Due to the selection of fast-growing trees with the ability for coppicing, the so-called woodlots can be harvested every 4-5 years to produce a high amount of biomass, which can be used as firewood or charcoal production. 

Protection from bushfires

A major challenge and risk in these forest zones as well as for the woodlots and for the restored forest landscapes is the regular occurrence of uncontrolled bush fires in the dry season which disturb the natural regeneration, destroy planted seedlings and promote grass growth which leads to an even higher potential for bushfires – a devil’s circle. To reduce the risk, several of the woodlots were planted with a wide of 40-100 meters around the restored areas to serve as green fire belts and at the same time as biomass source. In addition, fire volunteers will be trained and equipped in each community to prevent and suppress uncontrolled bush fires. 

New kiln techniques for efficient use of charcoal

To increase the efficiency of the conversion from wood to charcoal improved kiln techniques, like the newly invented Adam Box Kiln, will be introduced in combination with the woodlots. Additionally, improved cookstoves will be introduced in the communities to increase the efficiency in the use of charcoal at household level. 

Policy framework for sustainable charcoal production

To support the implementation of a sustainable and efficient wood energy value chain on national level, the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Commission were supported in the formulation of two new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets. One on the promotion of efficient charcoal kilns and one on woodlot establishment which are currently under the national review process. In addition, in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy, Energy Commission and together with the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency the development of a National Bioenergy Action Plan and a National Wood-Energy Regulation are being supported. These regulations and strategies will build a framework and support the implementation of a sustainable and efficient charcoal production on local and national level.

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