Bush control project concludes

SO LONG … From left: Pekeloye Kamenye, a senior adviser of the GIZ BCBU project, Ulrike Metzger, the head of development cooperation at the German embassy, Johnson Ndokosho, the director of forestry, and Johannes Laufs, the team leader at the GIZ BCBU project, at the handover of the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation project ‘knowledge box’ to the director of forestry.

STAKEHOLDERS on Thursday celebrated the closure of the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation (BCBU) project, which was launched in 2014 and wraps up this month after 10 years of being implemented.

“This project was one of the cornerstone initiatives supporting government efforts to combat bush encroachment in Namibia and we are going to miss it.

“It played a pivotal role in shaping strategies and approaches on bush control and enhancing the capacities of farmers and entrepreneurs to create value chains,” said Timoteus Mufeti, the environmental commissioner in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

According to a statement of Assellah David, from implementing partner Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the BCBU project promoted the sustainable utilisation of encroacher bush-based biomass, thereby contributing to rangeland restoration and economic development in Namibia.

“The way government institutions, civil society, academia and the private sector have aligned their interests around the topic of bush encroachment is unique.

“As a development partner, we take pride in the achievements and fruitful cooperation with the Namibian ministries of environment and of agriculture over the past decade on this project,” Ulrike Metzger, the head of development cooperation at the German embassy, said.

She said over the past 10 years, the biomass sector in the country had experienced enormous change, because a decade ago, farmers were isolated in their struggle to debush their land, to improve grazing, groundwater recharge and biodiversity.

Today, Namibia sees a paradigm shift: from debushing to bush control and biomass utilisation, she said.

What was once considered a problem now presents an opportunity, the statement said.

According to GIZ, employment in bush harvesting and processing doubled from 6 000 to 12 000 between 2016 and 2024, the charcoal value chain has increased six-fold in terms of revenue and animal feed based on milled encroacher bush is being produced on farms and substitutes imported commercial feeds.

“More than 900 farmers produced bush-based animal feed for 120 000 animals during the 2019 drought. A wood-plastic-composite factory started production in Windhoek, producing flooring material from wood and recycled plastic and a broad array of further value addition opportunities is being explored,” the statement said.

The new star on the horizon is biochar, a product similar to charcoal, but made from smaller branches.

The application of biochar could improve Namibian soils, thereby contributing positively to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“Biochar credits could then be traded on international carbon markets and bring revenue into the country,” the statement added.

The BCBU project placed a strong emphasis on collaboration with the government the private sector, academia, farmers’ unions and civil society.

The project focused on building institutional capacity for the sector and today, sector organisations such as the Namibia Biomass Organisation and the Charcoal Association of Namibia effectively support knowledge exchange and technology transfer.

The bilateral BCBU project was commissioned by the German federal ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) and implemented by the GIZ, in cooperation with the Namibian environment ministry, from 2014 to 2024.

According to GIZ project team leader Johannes Laufs, at least 45 million hectares are considered bush encroached in Namibia as indigenous bush species are thickening on land that should be open savannah.

These species could have positive effects on ecosystems and support important ecological processes.

However, the extreme thickening of bush is often associated with considerable negative impacts on the productivity of land, biodiversity, water availability and livelihoods, Laufs said.

– email: matthew@namibian.com.na

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