Utilising bush biomass in Namibia
Title: Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
Overall term: 2014 to 2021
Bush encroachment on pasture land is causing massive economic and ecological damage in Namibia. This affects 30 to 45 million hectares, which is at least 30 per cent of Namibia’s land area. In past decades, measures mainly aimed to combat bush and tree encroachment. Whereas commercial farms predominantly used chemicals with uncertain long-term consequences, the government funded small-scale, labour intensive de-bushing on state-owned farms. In spite of these efforts, the land area affected by bush encroachment annually by far exceeds the area cleared. High costs are the greatest obstacle. Yet the accumulated biomass resulting from de-bushing can be used, making it an economically viable business proposition. The charcoal sector, which already employs some 5,000 people, has so far been generating the largest demand for bush material. In addition, industrial enterprises use wood chips from bush material in biomass boilers to produce process heat.
Bush control and bush biomass utilisation suffer from a lack of sufficient advisory services and funding support. The infrastructure facilities and technologies needed for larger biomass projects to ensure the bush biomass could be harvested and delivered economically and without negative impact on the environment are not in place. Overall, the economic utilisation of biomass from controlled de-bushing of pasture land remains inadequate.
The economic utilisation of biomass from controlled de-bushing of pasture land has improved. The project operates country-wide with particular focus on two selected regions.
The project works with the most important government and private stakeholders to create a framework for bush control and biomass utilisation. A second field of activity strengthens the capacities of the responsible authorities to enable them to improve their procedures for approval and monitoring of bush biomass harvesting. In addition, services are being established to advise farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises on funding bush control and biomass utilisation and on the use of sustainable measures. Other objectives are the development of sustainable supply structures for bush biomass consumers and the introduction of innovative technologies for harvesting and processing bush biomass.
The Ministry of Agriculture is the political partner; other authorities are important stakeholders. For instance, members of a project steering committee include the Ministries of Environment and Tourism, of Mines and Energy, and of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development. Cross-sectoral coordination enables optimal embedding in relevant strategies. The project also involves private sector organisations, farmers associations and businesses.
The measure has helped to create awareness on a political and social level for the fact that the accumulated biomass resulting from de-bushing can be used and that this is an important prerequisite for economically viable de-bushing. Selected value chains underwent a pilot run, including the production of animal feed, the modernised production of charcoal and the supply of wood chips for energy generation. Evidence regarding the economic viability and environmental soundness of resource utilisation was provided. In addition, a centralised advisory service for farmers was established and business associations were strengthened to enable the meaningful coordination of private-sector activities. The project supported the development of a national strategy for improving pasture land and de-bushing as a basis for a future national de-bushing programme.