Sustainable source of fuel for households in Ghana

Gas29 August 2013, Accra – Many years ago, southern Ghana was a forest zone. The entire area was dotted with trees, some of which were hundreds of years old.
The abundance of trees also provided the right environment for flora and fauna to develop.

Unfortunately, timber logging, charcoal burning and other harmful environmental practices have reduced the forest cover, leaving the southern sector with less than a third of what it possessed.

Until the introduction of liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, as an alternative fuel for domestic use, more than 70 per cent of households in Ghana used charcoal and firewood for cooking.

Even with the introduction of LPG, many households still rely on charcoal and firewood.

A research by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, CGIAR, indicates that years of tree-clearing for charcoal in some parts of the northern part of Ghana, particularly in the Upper West and Upper East regions, has eliminated forests that stood as the last line of defence against the conversion of sparsely forested dry lands and pastures into useless desert.

Scientists predict that the burning of wood fuel by African households will release the equivalent of 6.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by 2050, resulting in further climate change.

Considering the fast rate at which our forests are being depleted and the speed with which the Sahara is moving towards us, there is the need to put in measures that would discourage the use of wood as fuel for cooking.

One of the innovative ways of bringing about change in that direction is the introduction of bamboo as an alternative.

A new type of fuel for cooking, derived mainly from bamboo, known as Bamboo Charcoal Briquette, BCB, has been developed in a bid to halt the depletion of our forests.

The Project
The project was initiated by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, INBAR, a non-governmental organisation the preservation of the environment, in partnership with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

The production of the bamboo, which is already going on in the Eastern, Northern and Volta regions, is also in collaboration with the Chinese government, European Union and the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana and aims at substituting bamboo charcoal with firewood and forest wood.

INBAR is dedicated to reducing poverty, conserving the environment and creating fairer trade using bamboo and rattan.

It was established in 1997 and represents a growing number of member countries all over. the world. Its headquarters is in China and regional offices in Ghana, Ethiopia, India and Ecuador.

Countries such as Ethiopia are pressing for development of their own bamboo charcoal industries to provide sustainable, affordable energy for its growing population.

Laws are made to protect the forests from the so-called illegal tree cutters. However the number of trees illegally cut down yearly is way beyond the number of culprits arrested, which indicates that most culprits go scot free, as the protectors of the law do not guard and enforce the law properly”.

In Ghana, the reason behind the cutting down of trees usually borders on production of charcoal, pasture for livestock, farms, and urban or industrial purposes. The forest place is left bare, mostly with the notion of waiting for nature to reproduce these trees again, which takes many decades to do so.

The cutting down of trees, in the eyes of the law, is often considered legal or illegal. Both the legal and illegal are having a drastic effect on the nation since they are not followed with proper afforestation activities.
Bamboo grows naturally across Africa’s diverse landscapes and unlike trees, it regrows after harvest. We should put it to good use to provide clean energy for Ghana.

Ensuring food security in a changing climate is one of the major challenges of our era. It is well known that the destruction of Ghana’s forests has negative repercussions for livelihoods and sustainable agriculture as it feeds into a cycle of climate change, drought and poverty,”

It is reported that sub-Saharan Africa has more than 2.75 million hectares of bamboo forest, equivalent to approximately four per cent of the continent’s total forest cover. Rural communities need access to sustainable approaches that would keep trees on the ground and the environment safe.

BCB is produced from bamboo and cassava. It burns slowly, cooks longer, preserves food, produces less smoke and no odour and does not pollute the environment as much as charcoal and firewood do.

It is produced by a machine which churns out thousands of the briquettes in Jail shapes. The technology is being adopted to produce bamboo charcoal briquettes to serve a large number of rural and urban communities

There is a special type of bamboo, the Perfect Biomass Grass Bamboo (PBGB), which is ideal for the production of the BCB. It grows in abundance in Ghana.

The Perfect Biomass Grass Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and produces large amounts of biomass, making it an ideal energy source. Tropical bamboos such as the species found in Ghana can be harvested after just three years, rather than the two to six decades needed to generate a timber forest.

The entire bamboo plant including the stem, branch and its rhizome, is used to produce charcoal briquette, making it highly resource efficient, with limited cost. Charcoal is made through the controlled burning of bamboo in kilns, whether traditional, metal, or brick. Bamboo is one of the largest grasses in the world that are fast- growing with a high cultural significance in East and Southeast Asia.

Bamboo belongs to the family of plants known as Poaceae. This perfect biomass grass grows naturally across Africa and presents a viable, cleaner and sustainable alternative to wood fuel.

It takes four to five years for bamboo to mature while trees take about 15 years to develop.

– Daily Graphic

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