In Cameroon, wood and coal dominate household energy consumption, with wood accounting for 82.3% and coal for 30.6% nationwide, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). This reliance on wood fuels, particularly in rural areas and regions like the Far North where firewood usage reaches 95%, intensifies deforestation, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, threatening biodiversity and food security.
To tackle these challenges, the UNDP recently provided a game-changing solution: an ecological charcoal production unit for women's associations in the Far North. This unit, installed at the Centre for Appropriate Technologies (CTA) in Maroua, features five external kilns, a carbonization kiln, a semi-industrial grinder, a semi-industrial mixer, and a cooling chamber, as reported by the state-owned newspaper Cameroon Tribune. Prior to receiving the unit, the beneficiaries underwent training on the eco-charcoal production process, presented as a sustainable alternative to traditional charcoal and its detrimental impact on forests.
"Bio-coal, also known as ecological coal or green coal, is a solid fuel made from readily available, carbon-rich organic waste from farms and homes. This innovative solution, gaining traction in Cameroon and other southern countries, offers a sustainable alternative to traditional charcoal. Produced in the form of briquettes or balls resembling traditional charcoal pieces, bio-coal can be made from a variety of organic waste sources depending on the region and its economic activities. These include sawmill waste, agricultural waste, household waste, and food industry waste," the UNDP explains.
This environmentally friendly fuel offers a promising double benefit: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining clean towns and villages. "By nature, it is biodegradable with a neutral ecological footprint," the UN agency states. "As a result, it produces minimal pollution and helps protect forests and biodiversity."
Quantifying the positive impact, the UNDP highlights that for every tonne of eco-charcoal sold, two tonnes of wood and one tonne of conventional charcoal are preserved, five tonnes of waste are recycled, and 3.7 tonnes of CO2 are sequestered. Beyond environmental benefits, the UNDP sees eco-charcoal production as a potential driver of economic empowerment and social cohesion in the Far North, a region plagued by Boko Haram atrocities and community conflicts.