The majority of households in sub-Saharan Africa rely on traditional biomass as their primary source of cooking fuel. In several countries, biomass-based fuels (firewood, charcoal, agricultural residues, animal dung etc.) represent more than 70% of the energy sources used in households, especially in rural and suburban areas. These fuels are often used with inefficient cooking devices that release a significant amount of smoke and particulates, threatening the health of those who use and depend on traditional biomass, mainly women and children.
The wood fuel demand growth, coupled with a high cost of alternative resources, contributes to an increase in trees cutting to ensure adequate wood fuel supply to households. This results in the decrease of forest areas, threats to landscape, the loss of biodiversity and of its services, and in the promotion of soil erosion.
A biochar system works towards reversing the negative health and climate impacts of traditional cook stoves and open fires by replacing them with clean burning pyrolysis cook stoves that utilize non-competitive agricultural and agro-industrial waste streams, while producing a highly carbonized product – biochar – that has the capacity to replenishing soil organic matter, enhance soil fertility and productivity and reverse agricultural land degradation. Introducing biochar systems contributes to energy transition to improved clean cooking stoves that use waste biomass as fuel and produce biochar as energy by-product.
There are many clean cooking stoves that produce biochar available in the market, like the gasifier cook stoves. These use pyrolysis for combustion, producing lower smokes emissions than the traditional three stone, and ensuring from the full exploitation of biomass energy potential: the biochar to be used as soil amendment. The use of these stoves can help reducing women’s and children’s health problems associated with smoke in the kitchens.Biochar can also be produced in larger units fueled with waste materials to produce energy. Municipal, agro-industrial and other waste materials can be channeled to energy generation for community and private sector needs, producing also biochar as by-product to be utilized for agricultural purposes. This is compliant with UN SDG 7 “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.