Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation (BCBU)
Title: Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation (BCBU)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
Overall term: 2018 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 more than 30 per cent of Namibia’s land area. The most significant consequences of bush encroachment are reduced carrying capacity of affected rangeland as well as reduced groundwater recharge and biodiversity through habitat loss.
In past decades, efforts to address bush encroachment included the predominant use of chemicals on commercial farms with uncertain long-term consequences, and the government funding small-scale, labour intensive bush thinning on state-owned farms. Despite these efforts, the land area affected by increasing bush encroachment each year by far exceeds the area of restored land.
Bush encroachment also provides an opportunity for economic development in Namibia. The accumulated biomass resulting from bush thinning can be gainfully used, making it an economically viable resource for business. Multiple opportunities exist for bush based value chains, such as firewood, charcoal, animal feed, biochar or wood-plastic composite products, and more so in the use of biomass for energy generation.
Despite this economic potential, bush control and bush biomass utilisation efforts are still inadequate in Namibia. High bush thinning costs and low value ascribed to bush products present a significant obstacle to the biomass sector. Also, sufficient infrastructure facilities and efficient technologies are needed to effectively upscale bush thinning operations on both private and state land. Long-term sustainability also requires adequate national coordination, policy guidance and advisory services on sustainable bush thinning and aftercare. Finally, the availability of, and access to funding is limited for this underdeveloped industry. Sustainable financing could be well motivated by the macro-economic benefits of bush thinning, which include rangeland restoration, rural employment generation, domestic value addition, improved groundwater recharge and renewable energy supply.
The economic utilisation of biomass from controlled bush thinning of pasture land has improved.
The project, together with key state and private stakeholders, creates a framework for bush control and biomass utilisation. A second area of action strengthens the capacity of the competent authorities to better approve and monitor the extraction of bush biomass. In addition, advice will be provided to farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to finance and apply sustainable bush-control and biomass-use measures. In addition, sustainable supply structures for bush biomass customers will be built up and innovative technologies for the extraction and processing of bush biomass will be introduced.
In addition to the Ministry of Agriculture as a political partner, other authorities are important stakeholders. For example, the Ministries of Environment and Tourism, Mining and Energy, Industrialization, Trade and SME Development are part of a steering committee of the project. Cross-sectoral coordination enables optimal anchoring in relevant strategies. In addition, private organisations, farmer associations and companies are also involved.
The measure has raised awareness at the political and societal levels that biomass can not only be used in decommissioning, but it is an economically sound and important prerequisite. Selected value chains were piloted, including the production of animal feed, the modernised production of charcoal and the supply of wood chips for energy use. Evidence of the economic and environmental sustainability of resource utilisation has been provided. Furthermore, a central advisory service for farmers has been set up and business organisations strengthened so that private-sector activities can be meaningfully coordinated. With the support of the project, a national pastureland improvement and de-barking strategy was developed as the basis for a future national decommissioning programme.