Combating deforestation with the power in farm waste

New pyrolysis plant in Côte d’Ivoire will produce clean and efficient household fuel

Three days was all it took for a hard-working team in Côte d’Ivoire to build the BIO4Africa’s project’s first pyrolysis kiln based on Brazilian technology. The facility will pilot the production of a clean and efficient household fuel from agricultural waste – an opportunity to help solve the country’s decades-long struggle with deforestation.

Côte d’Ivoire has lost almost all its forests over the past half century. More than 600,000 tons of wood are still consumed annually, primarily for household cooking on traditional stoves[1]. Many other countries across Sub-Saharan Africa face similar deforestation challenges.

A safe and carbon-neutral alternative
The Brazilian kiln offers a sustainable alternative. Utilising plant waste from smallholder farms, it produces high quality biochar, a carbon-neutral fuel that is efficient to use and produces no unhealthy smoke.

Coconut, cashew and mango seed shells are just some of the waste products available in Yamoussoukro, where the pilot plant is located on the experimental farm of Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny (INP-HB). But the feedstock possibilities are endless.

Simple, low-cost technology
“This simple, low-cost technology is already widely used in rural communities in Brazil – and it’s easily adaptable to residues like corn cob, cocoa pods, peanut shells and bamboo. That makes it quite easy to transfer the technology,” says Túlio Jardim Raad, consultant engineer from the Brazilian company Nascente Engenharia who led the construction work in cooperation with INP-HB. 

Entirely made from local materials at a cost of around EUR 2,000, the small-scale pyrolysis plant comprises four circular kilns connected to a central chimney. Under Raad’s supervision, a small team built the plant with minimal training.

“We built the kilns in three days and, on the fourth day, we could already start carbonising biomass. On this very small pilot, you can produce around 50kg of biochar a day,” Raad explains.

Biochar for multiple uses
Biochar production takes six to eight hours. Monitoring software measures and models the carbonisation process, producing biochar suitable for a number of applications. Apart from its ideal properties as a household fuel, the biochar can be used for soil amendment and as activated carbon in water purification.

INP-HB is one of the 25 African-European partners behind the EU-funded BIO4Africa project, which aims to identify and pilot small-scale technologies that valorise agricultural waste in rural Africa.

New opportunities for rural revenue
Professor at INP-HB Yao Casimir Brou expects up to 300 local farmers to supply the pilot plant with biomass.

“The use of agricultural residues for biochar production will solve multiple challenges for farmers who experience problems with rotting waste on their land, which can both disturb the physicochemical properties of the soil and harbour plant diseases.

“In areas where even young trees are often cut to produce charcoal for household use, and health is frequently compromised by the use of wood stoves for cooking, the technology has great potential,” he says.

Two more Brazilian kilns have been installed at test sites operated by Savannah Young Farmers Network (SavaNet) in Loagri, northeast Ghana and ASAPID in Ziguinchor, Senegal.