Turning Typha into durable wealth
Turning an environmental constraint like the invasive weed Typha into green low-pollutant charcoal is both an insightful idea and a considerable challenge. We supported GRET to test and replicate a promising model in Senegal that had previously been implemented in Mauritania. Although significant contextual risk factors and important adjustments made it necessary to downsize the original programme, three small enterprises which manufacture Typha briquettes for cooking have been formally established in the villages of Pomo, Mbagam and Ronkh in Richard Toll district, northern Senegal. With a combined Typha briquette manufacturing capacity of 850 kg of per month, they have cleared over 2,700 square metres of the Senegal River’s banks, making them accessible to livestock farmers and fishermen again.
The uncontrolled spread of Typha Australis, an invasive weed that grows abundantly all along the banks of the Senegal River, is causing major damage. It chokes waterways, diminishes biodiversity and contributes to the spread of water-borne diseases that result from stagnant water. It also blocks irrigation channels, reducing access to the river for livestock farmers and fishermen.
We supported GRET in the design and implementation of a pilot programme to limit Typha proliferation and transform this invasive reed into ‘green’ charcoal as a valuable alternative to common wood charcoal.
Turning an environmental constraint like Typha into low-pollutant green energy is a challenge that GRET has been addressing in Mauritania since 2011. The organisation wanted to test, adapt and replicate the model on the other side of the Senegal River.
- After a thorough market analysis, acceptability tests and expertise assessments, three small Typha processing enterprises have been formally established in the villages of Pomo, Mbagam and Ronkh, in Richard Toll district, northern Senegal. These processing facilities are run and managed by a total of 24 local workers. The manufacturing process involves harvesting and carbonising Typha weed and then compressing it into briquettes. The briquettes are sold to be used for cooking and other household needs, replacing wood charcoal. The three units reached a combined manufacturing capacity of 850 kg per month. Local workers were also trained in stock and budget management, market uptake and packaging.
- By the end of 2017, over 2,700 square metres of river bank had been cleared of Typha to be transformed into “green” charcoal.
Significant contextual risk factors, such as a lack of land titles and a partial adhesion to the programme by local authorities, prevented three additional production units from being set up in the villages of Nder, Thiagar and Temeye Touicouleur.
In the course of the programme, important adjustments proved necessary to improve the quality of the manufacturing equipment used by the production units as well as the quality of the charcoal produced.
The economic and environmental competitive advantages of the new green charcoal over wood charcoal have still to be strengthened to encourage further market penetration.