Biomass expo biggest yet

It is important to strengthen and increase the productivity of farmland, which could lead to improved livelihoods, and reduction of poverty in rural areas.

14 August 2019 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

The Biomass Technology Expo (BTE) which was held on Friday at the Otjiwa Lodge near Otjiwarongo turned out to be biggest biomass day Namibia has ever seen.

More than 120 exhibitors showed their new technology, reached out to potential customers and exchanged ideas. With 1 400 visitors, the BTE has claimed its place among Namibia’s most vibrant business shows.

“The event links buyers to sellers, experts to laymen, and Namibia to the rest of the world. BTE develops new ways of thinking about our vast biomass resource and how it can be fully explored. The technology at the heart of this expo provides the means to unlock the true value of this resource. We are on the right path to something meaningful,” said Ned Sibeya, deputy chief of the National Planning Commission.

Standard Bank CEO, Vetumbuavi Mungunda, also hailed the expo, saying it helps to develop technologies that can be applied for better use of rangeland and farm productivity.

Since farming is the main source of livelihood for over 60 to 70% of Namibians, Mungunda said it was important to strengthen and increase the productivity of farmland, which could lead to improved livelihoods, and reduction of poverty in rural areas.

Standard Bank was the main sponsor of the expo.

“As Standard Bank we also believe that, as a financier, it is important to engage clients in our communities, and in our country, with regard to the whole value chain, to understand their needs, to understand their requirements and also what can be done to improve the production across the whole value chain.”

In view of the debilitating drought situation in the country, Mungunda said it was pleasing to note that some farmers have branched into other productive avenues such as charcoal harvesting.

“The diversification from livestock farming helps farming communities not only to deal with the drought that we are experiencing but also to generate additional income for themselves and for the country.”

Mungunda also welcomed recent policy announcements by government regarding the registration of bush feed (also known as bush fodder or boskos) as animal feed and harvesting of charcoal in communal areas.

He said the registration of bush feed as animal fodder will allow for further investments, innovation and research into the product which could in future substitute the importation of animal fodder from other countries. He said if research goes to the extent where bush feed becomes competitive it can also be exported to other countries and thus generate much-needed foreign currency.

On the harvesting of charcoal in communal areas, Mungunda said it will also provide income generating opportunities and relief for farmers who are severely affected by the current drought.

“These policy announcements help to stimulate new interests, new investments and new research,” he said.

The expo kicked off on Friday with the 4th annual Ggneral meeting of the Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA). Charcoal production is booming and the sector is committed to growing the industry. A new good practices booklet was launched with guidelines covering harvesting, production, aftercare, health and safety measures and more.

“It was a day full of good news”, says Michael Degé, NCA manager.

According to Werner Berg from DHG, who exports Namibian charcoal to Germany, they are ready to upscale considerably.

“We will increase production capacity from 18 000 to 45 000 tonnes - starting immediately.

In the communal areas, NCA will launch pilot projects together with the Directorate of Forestry and the De-bushing Advisory Service to foster charcoal production there.

The NCA also commended the Forest Stewardship Council representative, Manushka Moodley, for the excellent work she has done in Namibia.

“The Namibian FSC standard is formalised and that is an enormous milestone for our country. The guidelines are now specifically adapted to the Namibian bush and environment. This will make it much easier for farmers to achieve FSC certification,” Degé explained.

The BTE was organised by the Namibia Biomass Industry Group (NBIG).

“We are very happy with the massive turnout. Namibians are definitely realising the biomass opportunity. We were somewhat surprised by the huge international interest but that, of course, shows the great business potential Namibian biomass has to offer,” said Colin Lindeque, General Manager of NBIG.

Exhibitors travelled thousands of kilometres to Otjiwa – from South Africa, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the UK and the USA.

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