Common charcoal is still Africa’s most widely used household energy source to date, and it continues to pose a threat to the environment. Many new and increasingly sustainable sources of energy are being developed across the African continent. Nevertheless, at least 80% of the African population currently depends on traditional biomass resources such as charcoal and firewood for household energy use. This is a strain on the environment, with deforestation from wood-cutting a persistent threat.

Looking for new sources of energy

To sustainably introduce a new source of energy, a reliable and sufficient supply chain is necessary to guarantee its availability to households. Building this supply chain for most alternatives to charcoal is difficult, however. Production and distribution would require additional techniques, investments and an organisation structure that needs to compete with the existing, usually informally organised charcoal sector.

Alternative charcoal tool

Now, the new 'alternative charcoal tool' (ACT) has come online, having been developed by environment consultancy BTG with funding from NL Agency. The tool allows users to assess these obstacles and opportunities for supply chains that involve any of the several promising feedstock alternatives. These include charcoal dust, processing residues, energy crops and harvest residues. The tool consists of four parts: feedstock selection, market selection, selection of technology and determination of production costs. The tool is meant to be a source of information as well as a decision making tool for governments, private agents and NGO's. It can be used for policy and programme development or for testing a business case. Download the tool from the BTG website.

More information

The launch of the tool comes with an extensive background report. The report gives details on three case studies that served to build and test drive the tool. It also presents some observations on the development of a sustainable alternative to the charcoal economy. More information on the project is available from Carmen Heinze, NL Agency.


Charcoal production from alternative feedstocks - June 2013.pdf