There is good news for charcoal producers. A new charcoal conversion kiln that is up to 40 percent more efficient in converting wood to charcoal has been developed, successfully piloted, and is now available for use.
The new conversion kiln, the Retort, which is made from brick and metallic plates, was unveiled on Wednesday October 01, as part of a new 4-year green charcoal project launched by Government of Uganda in Nakaseke district.
The project, “Addressing barriers to adoption of improved charcoal production technologies and sustainable land management practices through an integrated approach” aims to secure multiple environmental benefits by addressing unsustainable utilization of wood-fuel (including charcoal) and poor land management practices through technology transfer, enhancement of the national policy framework and the promotion of sustainable land and forest management practices. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development is implementing the project together with the Ministry of Water and Environment, National Forestry Authority (NFA) and District Local Governments of Kiryandongo, Nakaseke, Mubende and Kiboga where the project will be focusing.
A total of 200 retort kilns and 400 casamance kilns will be deployed for demonstration in the 4 pilot districts, helping to reduce carbon emissions (of 210,816 and 1,113,686 tCO2eq respectively). If successfully adopted, the two kilns will save up to 143,314 metric tons of wood from being felled for charcoal in 4 years. Furthermore, 60 sustainable charcoal cooperatives will be strengthened (in collaboration with FAO and Farmer Field Schools) and 2,400 charcoal champions secured in the pilot districts.
Elaborating the benefits of the retort kiln, Dr. Samuel Bagabo, an expert on charcoaling, said it is more efficient at recycling emissions, and also has a 20% profit margin per output unit of charcoal produced.
“It has 35-40 per cent of efficiency. It means that if you are converting 100 kilogrammes of wood into charcoal, you will have a recovery of up to 40 kilogrammes of charcoal. Ordinarily, using traditional methods, you would get 10 kilogrammes of charcoal out of 100 kilogrammes. With the new method, you make a saving of 40 per cent. Plus, you would reduce on the green gass emissions,” Dr. Bagabo revealed at the launch.
Many of the traditional charcoal conversion kilns, usually in form of earth pits or mound kilns that are currently in use in Uganda are not considered very efficient, with one ton of wood producing an output of 100-150 kilogrammes of charcoal. On the other hand, the new improved retort kilns, produce about 400kg of charcoal from similar tonnage.
Ms Almaz Gebru, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) observed that the growing challenges resulting from the high population growth rate and the subsequent demand for cooking energy is taking a high toll on the forest cover as biomass is harvested indiscriminately for wood fuel and charcoal production. She however, commended government for prioritizing improved charcoal kilns as a way of increasing efficiency of charcoal production, developing Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) on institutional cook stoves, charcoal and development of the National Biomass Energy Strategy (BEST).
About 2.7 billion people globally depend on traditional fuel sources such as wood, dung, crop waste, coal or charcoal for their daily activities. Currently 1.1 million tons of charcoal is used in Uganda for households and institutions. This amount of charcoal requires 11million tons of wood to produce. Research shows that the charcoal industry alone is worth UGX 900billion (nearly $400million) and employs over 220,000 people and benefits over 1million dependents, according to the Ministry of Energy & Miner