• Staff writer


Updated: Jan 19, 2021

The global outcry against the use of braai charcoal produced from rain forest trees, which leads to devastating forest degradation, is boosting the demand and production of eco-friendly charcoal. Certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the charcoal is made from hardwood invasive alien plant species (IAPs) in southern Africa.

IAPs cover at least 10 million hectares of land in South Africa and are responsible for taking approximately 6% of the country’s fresh water annually, according to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). Removing invasive species has been a DEFF Working for Water programme since 1995, but needs added impetus to deliver significant value to all stakeholders – from local communities to the country as a whole.

The impetus is happening near Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, where a consortium of seven small businesses is building an eco-friendly charcoal production business on tribal communal land. The SMME’s are Emabhaceni Development and Nature Solutions, Sivuyise Trading Enterprise, Mosia Heso Trading Enterprise, Mtumtum Enterprise, Mandilam, Morumotsho Charcoal Production, Eco-Char and Mrhulashe Trading Enterprise.

The project is backed by the following organisations:

*Avocado Vision’s Green Business Value Chain;

*the Forest Stewardship Council;

*CMO Group Scheme;

*Environmental and Rural Solutions;

*Conservation South Africa

*Lima Rural Development Foundation; and

*the DEFF.

The first eco-friendly charcoal has been produced in kilns set up in the area by the partnership of SMMEs and organisations. The wood for the charcoal is invasive biomass from the vast swathes of black and silver wattle trees that are devastating the area’s water table and ecosystem.

Every process is eco-responsible, from the way the invasive biomass is removed and delivered to the production site, to the kilns and production process itself in order to produce A-grade charcoal in this pilot phase.

A key factor contributing to the success of the project is the intense training, development and support that the SMMEs are given by all the partners, especially Avocado Vision, the project management company.

There is enough invasive biomass to ensure continued charcoal production for decades to come, but these small businesses are gaining skills that will enable them to branch out into other business ventures, should the removal of invasive biomass no longer be viable for them.


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