RTEA Namibia Sectoral Paper - Biochar in Namibia: Opportunities to Convert Bush Encroachment into Carbon Offsets

By Detlof von Oertzen on November 16, 2009

Namibia has recently undertaken a rapid trade and environment assessment, which identified potential green opportunities and likely threats from international trade law and technical standards. The assessment has ignited national debate among stakeholders from the often unconnected sectors of international trade, environment, agriculture, water, energy, tourism and others. The rapid assessment is the start of a process of greater collaboration between these previously distinct sectors, which will have the opportunity to collaborate to a greater extent in the future. Namibia's economy cannot compete with neighbouring South Africa's economic and infrastructural advantages, but the country can excel in some high-value niche areas depending on how policy-makers plan ahead.

Considerable portions of Namibia's natural rangelands are encroached by invader bush-a phenomenon that is recognized as a form of land degradation. Yet the bush resource also sequesters significant amounts of carbon dioxide, rendering Namibia a net carbon sink. While many farmers consider bush an expensive nuisance that needs to be eradicated, projects using bush and its derivative products could potentially earn carbon credits. This policy brief highlights opportunities and areas for further attention and follow-up in the biochar sector.

Key findings:

  • Presently, carbon sequestration and associated trading mechanisms from improved rangeland and soil-management practices, including the use of biochar, are being discussed in a variety of international forums. However, numerous research and procedural gaps remain before biochar can generate carbon revenues.

  • No Namibian policy or guideline incentivizes or regulates the development of carbon offsets or carbon sequestration through rangeland management.

Key recommendations:

  • Strengthen institutional capacity.
  • Prepare and train Namibian negotiators attending international forums.
  • Involve private sector specialists and stakeholders.
  • Support research and specialist studies.
  • Devise a bush-utilization and -beneficiation framework.
  • Provide seed funds to stimulate carbon-project development.
  • Assess costs and benefits of charcoal use in Namibia.

Report details

IISD, 2009