Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation
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: 2018 to 2021
Bush encroachment on rangeland is causing massive economic and ecological damage in Namibia. It 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. Over the past decades, efforts to address bush encroachment included predominantly the use of chemicals on commercial farms with uncertain long-term consequences. Furthermore, the government funds small-scale, labour intensive bush thinning on state-owned farms. In spite of these efforts, the area on which bush encroachment increases each year by far exceeds the area of restored land.
Bush encroachment also provides an opportunity for economic development in Namibia. The accumulated biomass 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 especially 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. Furthermore, sufficient infrastructure 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 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 rangeland has improved.
The project focuses on five components:
Integrated policy and enabling frameworks for sustainable bush harvesting
The continued support of enabling frameworks through the establishment of a national coordinating body comprising both public and private sector stakeholders as well as advising the responsible ministries on the revision of relevant Acts and Regulations. An integral output of this component is the development of a Bush Information System (BIS) as a future planning and management tool for bush control and biomass utilisation.
Authorisation processes and regulatory capacities
The project directly supports the relevant government authorities in strengthening organisational and staff capacities for monitoring environmental compliance of bush control operations and effective law enforcement. It specifically supports the regional offices of the Directorate of Forestry to ensure that central processes are optimised, for example through the digitalisation of the permitting process, and forestry and environmental inspectors are sufficiently capacitated.
Farmer and SME support
A De-bushing Advisory Service for farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises has been established. To date, the service is working closely with MAWF extension personnel and agricultural advisory services to integrate bush control and biomass utilisation into their services. The development and implementation of specific manuals for farmers on bush control and biomass utilisation is integral for this component. The project is also developing standards for the certification of SMEs as well as modules for training-of-trainers programmes.
Biomass supply chain
The project also aims to develop sustainable supply structures for bush biomass consumers. Regional biomass hubs will play a critical role in biomass supply chains that will create synergies between various bush based value chains and serve as basis for supply to major off-takers, such as biomass power plants or regional and international markets. In close collaboration with local stakeholders, the project aims to develop business and investment concepts for such biomass centres.
The project promotes the introduction of innovative, climate-friendly technology for both bush thinning and biomass processing. The approach includes:
- Adaptation of internationally proven technology to local conditions;
- Development of leasing mechanisms for testing of bush harvesting and processing machines;
- Implementation of pilot projects for the test of innovative technologies in cooperation with private sector partners, and;
- Dissemination of information about the available technology.
The project operates country-wide with a focus on two selected regions in the central north of Namibia, namely Otjozondjupa and Oshikoto. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) is the implementing partner.
The project has created awareness on a political and social level on the utilisation of biomass from encroacher bush resulting from bush thinning of rangelands. Selected value chains were piloted, including the production of animal feed, the modernisation of charcoal production through retort kilns and the supply of wood chips for energy generation. Evidence regarding the economic viability and environmental soundness of resource utilisation was provided through a Strategic Environmental Assessment. In addition, a centralised advisory service for farmers was established and business associations were strengthened to enable a meaningful coordination of public-private partnerships. The project supported the development of a national strategy for improving rangeland through bush control as a basis for a future national bush control programme.
A feasibility assessment for the development of Biomass Industrial Parks (BIP), so called biomass hubs, has been developed, including potential priority locations. One outcome is the establishment of a BIP management forum coordinating stakeholders and mobilising investment opportunities.