Launch of Gambia Biochar Network

Banjul, September 27, 2017 – The Executive Director of ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) Mahama Kappiah Wednesday 27thSeptember, 2017 graced the launch of Biochar Network Gambia (BNG) at the Senegambia Beach Hotel in Banjul. The network is constituted by stakeholders in energy, health, agriculture, forestry and environmental protection among others. The launch was officially opened by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy – Mr. Momodou O. Njie and chaired by Musa Samura, who is the Chairman of the BNG and Coordinator of the NGO REA Gambia.

ECREEE provided support to BNG which aims at promoting the use of clean and renewable energy in the country through the use of biochar systems. The initiative came barely one year after ECREEE organized a sensitization and capacity enhancement workshop in Banjul to improve the knowledge of stakeholders on Biochar systems.

The Gambia is the first country to launch such a network since the establishment and recommendation of the Africa Biochar Partnership (ABP) inaugurated on 1st march, 2016 in Nairobi Kenya. The ABP established and coordinated by ECREEE was created to promote the development of biochar Systems in Africa under the project ‘Biochar Plus Project’ funded by EU and coordinated by the University of Udine.

Biochar systems uses agro-industrial waste or residue such as groundnut shell, coconut shell, sawdust, etc in a gasifier stove. The gasifier stove burns the agricultural waste in a very clean manner with little or no smoke and can be used for cooking.

In his address, Mr Mahama Kappiah said the initiation of the national network for Biochar System was an opportunity to increase access to sustainable energy services using Biochar systems. “It is one of the most relevant technologies that ECREEE with partners have been championing since the start of the Biochar plus project”, he added.

Mr Kappiah further reminded the participants the efforts undertaken by ECOWAS Commission in recognition of low access to sustainable energy in the region. He added that the ECOWAS heads of States, in 2003 adopted the ECOWAS Energy protocol, which called for improvements in energy efficiency and increased use of renewable resources. This he said was followed by the adoption of the ECOWAS/UEMOA White Paper on access to energy services for populations in rural and peri-urban areas in 2006 and the establishment of ECREEE in 2008.

The ECREEE boss described the launch as timely, noting that it would go a long way in complementing the efforts of ABP, as well as strengthening the goals of the Gambian Alliance for Clean Cook Stove by providing stoves that consume lesser fuel and produces less/no smoke. He expressed gratitude to be associated with the event and commended partners for the support.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Petroleum and energy Momodou O Njie said 80% of the Gambian population depend on biomass to cook while the country loses 8000ha of forest every year, hence the need to find  a lasting solutions. “Biochar can be a solution to some of our challenges in the sectors of energy, forestry and agriculture”, said Mr Njie.

The waste from the gasifier stove after burning is what is referred to as Biochar. According to officials, farmers can use it for soil enrichment instead of chemical fertilizer. In a video call, the chair of ABP Lucia Brusegan said the BNG is part of efforts to establish a continental network of Biochar. She assured members of the BNG her agency’s resolve to support National Biochar Networks in promoting Biochar systems.

The ECREEE program officer for renewable energy, Bah F.M. Saho said the ECOWAS region has huge potentials for all forms of biomass and that ECREEE seeks to encourage the use of Biochar Systems to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. He added that Biochar System that uses agro-industrial residue/waste instead of wood, very efficient stoves that burn like LPG gas with little/no smoke and produces a by-product (biochar) that can be used in agricultural fields has multiple benefits. These include cleaner and sustainable energy, healthier and safer cook stove as it produces lesser smoke, reduces demand on wood for cooking and therefore saves the environment (forest cover and GHG) and enhances agricultural productivity.

The officials applauded the launch of BNG saying it would go a long way in complementing global efforts in increasing sustainable energy access, enhancing environmental protection and agricultural production and productivity. They noted that the use of gasifier stove will reduce fuel wood consumption thereby mitigating deforestation and desertification.