Namibia: Illegal Charcoal Market End Nears

THE market for non-certified charcoal producers will soon shut closed as international consumers demand that producers adhere to certain standards to ensure that no desertification and exploitation of workers take place.

This is according to Michael Degé, manager at the Namibian Charcoal Association (NCA), who explained the best practices and the potential of the charcoal sector to industry stakeholders at Okahandja this week.

He revealed that the market for non-certified charcoal will soon end as customers from Europe and other markets are opting for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified charcoal products.

"Customers in Europe trust the certification by the FSC," Dege added.

Namibian charcoal is mostly exported to South Africa and Europe, with the uncertified product mostly going to South Africa.

He said many South African retailers such as Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths had also indicated that they will switch to FSC-certified charcoal in 2020.

"However, South Africa will still also handle local and international markets for non-certified charcoal.

"At this stage as NCA, we cannot control the uncertified charcoal flow to South Africa, which is why we support the need for certification," Dege indicated.

Once the products are certified, farmers will be issued with barcodes which can be used to trace the product's origin to ensure it is not linked to illegal logging and exploitation of workers.

Degé noted that the market is becoming increasingly worried about the origin and production of charcoal, highlighting complaints about uncertified farmers in the Outjo-Kamanjab district who are harvesting big trees, and not following the FSC standards because they know the ministry is not adequately staffed to monitor them.

He then gave assurances that with FSC standards, farmers' charcoal production would be audited, and producers could lose their certification if they are found not to be compliant.

Estimates for 2019 are that up to 200 000 tonnes of charcoal will be produced in Namibia, up from 120 000 in 2018, with 10 000 people expected to be employed in the sector.

FSC is an international organisation which promotes the responsible management of forest resources and ecosystems, with a further focus on workers' rights and employment conditions.

The FSC provides a system for voluntary certification by setting rules for production and marketing, but at the same time calls for compliance with national legislation.

"FSC complements our national regulations and laws. In many cases, FSC principles and criteria ensure that we comply with our own national regulations," explained Stephan Bezuidenhout of the Environmental Compliance Consultancy.

The environmental consultants ensure FSC compliance by working closely with government departments in farm inspections.

There are a number of options for certification in Namibia, with "group scheme certificates" where farmers have supply agreements with a certain producer.

In addition, single site certificates for medium-scale operations are also available for small or low-intensity managed forests.

For certification, FSC demands potential suppliers to have title deeds and a land certificate, which in Namibia are assumed to be already handed in to the directorate of forestry when applying for a harvesting permit.

FSC Southern Africa reported last month that 568 000 hectares in Namibia are certified, with the number growing, and should reach 900 000 hectares by the end of this year.

The association also offers training on the harvesting process, packing of kilns, selection of wood, and a range of technologies.

Email: erastus@namibian.com.na

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