MORE than 120 exhibitors set up shop at the Namibia Biomass Technology Expo held at the Otjiwa Safari Lodge near Otjiwarongo last week Friday.
The event was meant for sharing new technology and exchange ideas on unlocking the value of biomass in the country.
The Namibia Biomass Industry Group (N-Big), which organised the event, said in a press release on Friday that more than 1 400 people attended the event.
"The expo turned out to be the biggest biomass day Namibia has ever seen," the statement said, adding that many Namibians are realising the business opportunity biomass presents.
N-Big noted that the biomass expo allowed established companies as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) an opportunity to exhibit their products, and connect with clients.
"Established companies like Hochland Tractors, Ombengu Energy, John Deere Otjiwarongo, Pupkewitz, Tafe and others exhibited at the expo," they highlighted.
The group's general manager, Colin Lindeque, was happy with the international interest the expo garnered.
"We were somewhat surprised by the huge international interest. But that, of course, shows the great business potential Namibian biomass has to offer," he said.
Exhibitors came from South Africa, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Amongst them was Barend van der Westhuizen from Africa Biomass, who came to exhibit both a Bandit Arjes impacter and an Agrifeed machine intended to upscale operations and produce ready-to-feed roughage.
"Bush to feed is the way to go. A machine like this can substantially upscale operations. It has a throughput of 3 to 7 tonnes," he noted.
Furthermore, Van der Westhuizen explained that the Bandit Arjes impacter, which was shown in Namibia for the first time ever, is a slow speed shredder which breaks wood into pieces that can be used for charcoal making.
Other exhibits included a combined heat and power system brought in by Matthias von Senfft of Spanner Re2 from Germany, a 'biomass industrial hub' initiative spearheaded by the GIZ Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation project; and on a smaller scale, an activated cosmetics range made by Doré and Johannes Kriel, a couple who produce charcoal on their farm outside of Outjo.
Standard Bank chief executive Vetumbuavi Mungunda hailed the expo, saying it helps to develop technologies which can aid in the diversification of the farming and agricultural sectors.
"Our engagement in the biomass sector started with our interest in improving rangeland and the productivity of farming communities. As 60% to 70% of Namibians depend on agriculture, biomass is an opportunity to reduce rural poverty," he stated.
Mungunda explained that diversification could help deal with drought and create additional income for farmers, lead to improved livelihoods, and in turn reduce poverty in rural areas.
He lauded Namibian farmers for branching out into other avenues such as charcoal harvesting, given the debilitating drought situation in the country.
"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," he said.
With many of the exhibits centred around bush feed and charcoal, Mungunda drew on the recent policy announcement by the government regarding the registration of bush feed as animal feed, and the harvesting of charcoal in communal areas.
On the harvesting of charcoal in communal areas, he 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 noted.
With Standard Bank as the main sponsor of the event, Mungunda said the financial services group believes that as financiers, it is important that they engage clients in order to gain a better understanding of their needs.