School of GeoSciences

Charcoal Research

In Mozambique, annual woodfuel consumption is estimated at 16 million m3, with miombo woodlands accounting for 85% of total household energy requirements. About 70-80% of the urban population depends on woodfuel (p139 CIFOR 1996).

Charcoal bagging

Charcoal being bagged ready for sale, May 2007

Current research

A research trip was carried out from May - June 2007 with the aim of collecting data on methods of charcoal production, costs involved with charcoal production and attitudes to current legislation on charcoal making. The results of this study will be a management plan for more efficient and sustainable production methods of charcoal.

Please download the final document: Exploring the Socio-economic role of charcoal and the potential for sustainable charcoal production in the Chicale Regulado, Mozambique (Alastair Herd 2007) A dissertation for the degree of MSc. at the University of Edinburgh.

Charcoal production

Charcoal production, June 2007

Charcoal transport

Charcoal is carried to the roadside where it can be sold, May 2007

Traditional charcoal harvesting

Many areas have been cleared for charcoal harvesting. Trees are felled around the area where the charcoal is to be produced and the timber and larger branches are burned. Charcoal is transported in grain sacks, and in the N'hambita regulado it is mainly produced by small-scale independent producers. Kilns are often found by roads to ease transportation of the charcoal out the area. Few tools are required, as kilns are made using earth which limits the air supply and produces charcoal.

Government regulations exist but are rarely enforced on the production of charcoal. Charcoal makers often shift frequently, to new areas each time charcoal is made so are difficult to engage in formal activities. Because of the charcoal producing laws they are often wary of discussing charcoal making, and efforts will therefore have to be made to introduce them to a new charcoal making system.

Little research has been done on the production and use of charcoal or other woodfuels in Mozambique. However research undertaken in Zambia (p162 CIFOR 1996) shows the market is healthy and during the rainy season, low-income households may spend as much as 19% of their income on charcoal. New methodologies therefore have the potential to make a large difference to the number of trees felled for charcoal.

Smouldering charcoal kiln

Smouldering charcoal kiln, May 2007

Alternative: sustainable charcoal production

Sustainable charcoal could be produced using rotation coppice (allowing the trees to regenerate from the stumps) which enhance regeneration. Despite the inherently slow growth rates of miombo trees, many miombo species are suitable for coppice for example Brachystegia and Julbernardia. Coppice can also be used in a multifunctional system where other useful species such as fruit trees are left out the system (i.e. are not coppiced), which increases the resources available from the land. Efficiency of charcoal production can be high, as 90% of aboveground biomass in miombo woodland is suitable for charcoal making by the earth kiln methods, so wastage is reduced.

Initial investigation into the more efficient methods of charcoal production have shown that potentially 9kgCO2 / ton charcoal can be saved by switching from traditional methods. Further savings can be achieved by using the tree more efficiently for example, brash (small branches and twigs) can be used in some charcoal making methods instead of being wasted. Charcoal from coppice also will increase the sustainability of production, and research to calculate the accumulated savings of CO2 will be undertaken.

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