Namibia is currently facing an uphill economic battle, having recently slipped into a recession, coupled with a staggering unemployment rate of over 30%, which is exacerbated further still by low international commodity prices, affecting some of our largest national income earners from the mining sector.
So, what if you were told that Namibia is sitting on the equivalent of 400 million barrels of oil, and its going completely unnoticed? It’s true, but it’s not in any deep, inaccessible offshore deposit, but rather, it is growing right in our backyards! Not only is it well within reach, but you can even harvest it with an axe.
Biomass worth more than NAD 370 billion
Namibia’s standing biomass resource, stemming from the bush encroachment phenomenon, is exactly that. It is equivalent to 400 million barrels of oil, which, if valued in today’s terms, is worth northwards of NAD 370 billion, or approximately three times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. However, if it were actual oil, there would already be a thriving industry around it by now, spurred on by government, international conglomerates, and global markets. The fact is, our biomass resource isn’t oil, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. On the contrary, as it contains the same energy, and is so readily accessible to the average Namibian, means that Namibia’s biomass resource will have far wider reaching macro and micro-economic benefits than that of a traditional oil-based industry.
Not only will the harvesting and processing of this biomass resource have the potential to sustain thousands of local jobs, but it would also have the added benefit of supporting more productive agriculture, tourism, and industry as a result, amplifying the benefits further still.
Some will argue that the resource has not gone completely unnoticed, and that Namibians are indeed exploiting the biomass resource, however, the magnitude of the current utilisation is unremarkable to say the least. Take the well-established local charcoal sector as an example; Namibia is already one of the world’s largest charcoal exporters, however, the total biomass equivalent being used to produce the annual charcoal production equates to a paltry 0.15% of the total standing biomass resource in the country! At this rate, Namibia would need to increase charcoal production by a factor of 20, simply to mitigate the annual spread of bush encroachment over our rangelands, spreading at over 3% per annum.
Colin Lindeque, General Manager of the Namibia Biomass Industry Group says “we should not forget that bush encroachment is largely a man-made problem, caused by generations of mismanagement, stemming from lack of information, mis-information, and general myopia. So, unless we are willing to wait for nature to sort itself out, which it would invariably do, but, at its own lumbering pace, we have to actively try and reverse this imbalance of bush that we have ourselves created”.
Namibia now faces a national challenge. There are thousands of farmers who are paralysed by the impenetrable bush thicket covering their lands, unable to continue rearing livestock as they once did. The ever worsening situation has left them in a dire financial situation, leaving them exposed to external factors such as drought, fluctuating livestock prices, and ever-increasing input costs.
Upcoming Biomass Technology Expo to focus on biomass in Namibia
It goes without saying, but this resource is not going to extract and process itself. The upcoming Biomass Technology Expo 2019, taking place on the 9th of August 2019, at Otjiwa Safari Lodge, will provide a platform to avail Namibia's biomass industry with the necessary tools for the efficient harvesting and processing of this vast biomass resource. The expo will focus on bush-based fodder production, modern charcoal production, efficient harvesting techniques, surveying and aftercare technologies, support services, research, and more! The event is open to everyone, and is especially important to farmers who are struggling to make ends meet in these trying times.
|Fact box about biomass in Namibia|
|- Namibia currently has an estimated 45 million hectares affected by bush encroachment.|
|- Bush encroachment has spread across Namibia at a rate of 3% per annum.|
|- On average, over 10 tonnes of dry biomass is available for harvest per hectare.|
|- Namibian bush biomass is renewable, non-tropical, and it negatively impacts biodiversity, soil moisture, and agricultural output.|
|- The Namibian bush biomass value chain can be Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.|
|- Currently, the biomass sector employs over 5000 people in Namibia.|
|- The biomass sector has the potential to employ over 100 000 people in Namibia, at its full potential.|
|- The standing bush biomass resource is worth over N$ 370 billion.|
|- Based on a sustainable harvest, the bush biomass industry in Namibia could generate N$ 15 billion of revenue each and every year, at its full potential.|
|- N$ 15 billion added to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Namibia would represent a 7% increase.|
Biomass N-BiG Bush encroachment Namibia