Green coal is coming to mangroves’ rescue

BR-EN-green-coal'Green coal' will soon be distributed year-round in northwestern Madagascar © M Andriatiana

Madagascar lost almost 21% of its mangroves (57,000 ha) between 1990 and 2010. Using green coal is a way to limit the destruction. 

Charcoal is the main source of energy in most developing countries, Madagascar included. Whether cooking, heating or even ironing, on average, Malagasies are burning 50-100 kg of charcoal per person, per year. This is the cause of severe damage to forests and an environmental threat. Some 150,000 ha of forests are destroyed each year for firewood, with additional losses to the country’s mangroves, which initially covered an area of 325,000 ha. 

To reduce the pressure on forest resources, in 2005 Chan Huchoc, a Malagasy entrepreneur, developed ‘green coal’, a coal made from organic materials, such as compost, wood chips, stems and leaves, which are burned in a specially designed kiln. The use of this innovation has spread across the northern part of Madagascar.

On the coastal island of Nosy Be in the Mozambique Channel, green coal is made from carbonised eucalyptus. Local people are being encouraged to use the green coal by a number of organisations, in particular the tourism industry association Groupement interprofessionnel de l’hôtellerie et du tourisme de Nosy Be (GIHTNB). Supported by the German cooperation agency GIZ, a huge reforestation programme has also been launched to plant eucalyptus in the northern region of Diana. 

Green coal has solved many of the energy problems faced by the local population, including fuel price and quality. The price of a 10 kg bag is stabilising at €2 while the cost of mangrove wood is increasing each year during the rainy season, up to €2.5. GIHTNB is now designing a year-round distribution network in order to provide Nosy Be with a convenient and continual supply. 

Green coal appears to be a way to limit mangrove destruction. For its part, the government has created a national integrated management commission to research ways to protect mangroves while sustainably exploiting their fishery resources. 

Mamy Andriatiana 

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