Controlling bush encroachment to support rural livelihoods

Project description

Title: Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Namibia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT)
Overall term: 2018 to 2021

Image 1: Bush thinned savanna (front view) and high bush density (back view).


Bush encroachment is a key challenge Namibia and a main form of land degradation. It is estimated that more than 45 million hectares of previously open savannas are increasingly becoming covered by shrubs and bushes. This is quite literally a ‘growing’ problem. Bush encroachment has detrimental effects on biodiversity, groundwater recharge and land productivity. Bush thickets crowd out other plants, especially grasses, which serve as forage for livestock.

To make degraded land areas usable again, bush is being thinned out in a controlled manner. This also creates economic opportunities. Bush can be harvested selectively and processed into various biomass products, such as animal fodder, charcoal, biochar, building material and wood chips for renewable energy production.

Although some value chains are already established, the scope of bush control and biomass utilisation efforts are still inadequate in Namibia. High harvesting costs, a limited local market demand for biomass products, a lack of both processing infrastructure and inefficient technology present significant obstacles to the development of the biomass sector Long-term sustainability also requires clear policy guidance and advisory services on sustainable bush thinning. Finally, access to funding is limited for this developing sector.

Bush control is a national priority, taking into consideration its macro-economic benefits. These include rangeland restoration, added value domestically, rural employment and renewable energy supply.


The economic utilisation of biomass from controlled bush thinning on rangeland has improved.

Processing encroacher bush


In order to foster the sustainable use of bush biomass, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provides advisory services to the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT). The project operates country-wide with a focus on two selected regions in the central part of northern Namibia. A strong focus is placed on cooperation with the private sector, both in Namibia and through international partnerships.

The project has five components:

  • Establishing national policies and geo-information systems as a basis for decision making
  • Improving authorisation processes and regulatory capacities of the responsible authorities
  • Providing an advisory service for farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises through collaboration with extension services and the development of training concepts and material
  • Fostering sustainable supply schemes by developing concepts for regional biomass hubs
  • Implementing a technology transfer in the form of applied research, pilot projects and international partnerships
Mixing milled bush fibre for animal feed


The project has created awareness on the benefits and economic returns of bush control and biomass utilisation. It has assisted in piloting selected innovative value chains, including the production of bush-based animal feed and biochar as a soil enhancer. The promotion of climate-friendlier and more efficient production technology has led to modernised charcoal production.

Environmental sustainability has improved thanks to a significant increase in voluntary Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, from 0.2 million hectares to 1.6 million hectares. The certification has created a benchmark, improving working conditions and income for workers. In addition, employment in the bush biomass sector has almost doubled in the last five years, from 6,000 to over 11,000 workers. Through advisory services, more than 600 farmers were trained in sustainable bush harvesting and processing.

The project also led to the development of a business concept and an implementation roadmap for Biomass Industrial Parks (BIP), and identified a priority location for the first biomass hub.

Last update: February 2021