How Ghana Is Powering The Economy With Charcoal From Grass

Shattering norms, Ghana powers its economy using charcoal sourced from grass, a groundbreaking solution to combat wildfires and drive sustainability.

Charcoal from grass in Ghana
Charcoal from grass [Dreamstime]

Entrepreneurs in Ghana are pioneering a new era of sustainability by exploring the potential of charcoal from grass businesses, leveraging the success of pilot projects in the Savannah and Upper West regions, and revolutionising the energy sector with an alternative to conventional grass charcoal. Ghana is making remarkable strides in sustainable energy solutions, and its latest endeavour involves an unconventional yet promising energy source – charcoal produced from gasification. This innovative approach not only addresses Ghana’s energy demands but also holds the potential for environmentally-conscious economic growth. Presently, entrepreneurs in Ghana are taking this concept a step further by exploring the viability of grass charcoal businesses, building upon successful pilot projects in the Savannah and Upper West regions.

Grass Charcoal: A Catalyst for Sustainability in Ghana

Reports indicate that entrepreneurs in Ghana are actively investigating the establishment of grass charcoal businesses, inspired by the success of pilot initiatives in the Savannah and Upper West regions.

Through a collaboration between the Millar Institute for Transdisciplinary and Development Studies (MITDS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a novel production technique has been developed to convert savannah grass into charcoal. This novel approach aims to harness the potential of the region’s grasses, with the twin goals of mitigating fire risks and curbing forest degradation.

Addressing the Challenge of Deforestation

The Savannah region in Ghana, which boasts a population of over six million, heavily relies on wood fuel and tree charcoal for cooking purposes. Conventional methods of charcoal production have contributed to deforestation and environmental degradation, a problem exacerbated during Ghana’s arid seasons, when the abundant savannah grass serves as a catalyst for wildfires.

In contrast to conventional tree-based biomass charcoal, grass briquettes are crafted from harvested grass combined with a binding agent, resulting in compact charcoal bricks. This method streamlines brick production, providing a more efficient means of producing green cooking fuel.

Charcoal From Grass: Environmental Implications and Advantages

With each 100kg of grass charcoal produced, the preservation of two trees becomes possible, translating to an annual carbon offset of 76kg. Based on the MITDS analysis, widespread adoption of grass charcoal could potentially counteract more than 44,000 tons of carbon emissions annually, creating an avenue for generating revenue through carbon offset credits, potentially amounting to GHS 4.4 million (USD 394,000).

MITDS has played a pivotal role in the production and integration of grass briquettes through collaborations with five forest and farm producer groups.

Innovative Packaging and Beyond

In a bid to bolster the market presence of grass charcoal, the project team is actively developing grass paper as a packaging solution for the briquettes. This innovative addition is anticipated to raise the selling price and enhance brand recognition. Additionally, the grass paper holds potential as a roofing material for rural homes, providing insulation during hot, dry seasons, and offering an alternative to traditional forest-derived materials like plywood.

Navigating Challenges and Adopting Strategies

Presently, the production cost of grass charcoal stands at GHS 100 (USD 8.95) per 100 kg, approximately twice the cost of wood charcoal. This higher expense is attributed to additional components, such as binding agents. While purchasing grass for this purpose involves community engagement, the perception that cutting down forest trees is cost-free remains a challenge. To address this, project leaders are collaborating with specialists in green energy and policymakers to strengthen the grass charcoal market. This strategy echoes previous successful efforts in Ghana, such as the promotion of gas stoves as an alternative to wood charcoal stoves.

Conclusion: A Path to Greener Pastures

Ghana’s journey towards sustainable energy solutions takes a leap with the exploration of grass charcoal businesses. This innovative approach not only mitigates deforestation and environmental degradation but also charts a course for an ecologically conscious economy. As Ghana’s entrepreneurs build on the achievements of pilot projects and endeavour to make grass charcoal a mainstream choice, the nation stands as a testament to the potential of innovative thinking and steadfast commitment, propelling economic growth while safeguarding the environment for generations to come.

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