An alternative to timber cutting now exists in Senegal. It is the use of green charcoal. The method involves unused agricultural residues or renewable biomass which would otherwise go to waste, and transforming them into briquettes of green charcoal, a wood charcoal substitute.
The Senegalese association for the protection of the environment, Nebeday has introduced traditional charcoal in a bid to curb deforestation. Rather than using wood, plant matters such as straw are used.
“I know that the main cause of deforestation in Senegal is traditional charcoal. Therefore, we lost in sixty years half of the Senegalese forests. And when we try to understand what were the causes of this lost forests we realize that it is timber cutting, charcoal and firewood. So, we told ourselves that we needed to find a solution and this is how we successfully found a technique to transform straw that is actually harmful for the forest into a fuel that will replace charcoal.” Jean Goepp, director, NGO Nebeday
The production process of bio charcoal starts when the straw is placed in steel drums to be carbonized. Holes are made under the drums to obtain oxygen. Once the straw is set on fire, the drums are opened for the smoke to disappear. Pyrolyzers monitor the drums while they are burning. They put sand around the drums to prevent oxygen flow. Once the drums are completely closed, carbonization takes place between 25 to 30 minutes. Each drum produces 2.5 kg of charcoal dust per session of carbonization. These dusts of green charcoal are placed in a basin where they are mixed with clay to produce some sort of paste that is pressed and dried.
The bio charcoal produced by Nebeday creates income generating activities and improves living conditions. Most Senegalese homes use traditional charcoal for cooking but bio charcoal is already yielding commercial success in regions because it is cost effective. Today, thanks to bio charcoal, hundreds of forests are protected in some regions of Senegal where the initiative is expanding. As for Nebeday, it continues to raise awareness to the local communities and the general public on the importance of contributing to the adaptation to climate change with green charcoal.