The ordinary wood harvesting for energy needs produces deforestation and soil erosion and threats ecosystems and the services they provide to the communities. From wood combustion, large amounts of smoke is emitted, causing indoor and outdoor air pollution, contributing to global warming. Addressing sustainable fuel supply is a priority for Africa, as well as adopting technologies which can help protecting and restoring landscapes and ecosystems.
A biochar system can help addressing these threats since it promotes the use of non-competitive fuels. The use of waste biomass to produce energy and biochar settles the food crops versus fuel crops trade off, as the same crop can be used to produce both food and energy. Corn cobs, slabs, offcuts, sawdust, cashew shell, cashew apple, palm kernel shells, peanut shell, coconut husk, coconut husk and shell, straw, stem, stalk, leaves, husk and shells in general, peel, lint, pulp, stubble, peanuts shelves, coming from cereals (rice, wheat, maize or corn, sorghum, barley, millet, teff), cotton, groundnut, jute, legumes (tomato, bean, soy), coffee, cacao, olive, tea, fruits (banana, mango, coco, cashew), palm oil processing waste, pomace of olives and other fruits, slabs, offcuts, sawdust, residues, animal dung, slaughterhouses are all examples of alternative biomass that can be used as sustainable fuel, substituting wood and reducing the pressure on forest resources and deforestation.
Sequestering carbon is another important biochar benefit. When applied to soil, biochar is stable and highly resistant to decomposition for millennia. That is why biochar is a climate-smart practice, as C-negative technology contributing to mitigation efforts. Biochar carbon capture and storage takes place as follows:
- Reducing carbon dioxide emissions through diminishing demand for wood fuel;
- Reducing deforestation thanks to the use of non-woody biomass residues in improved pyrolytic facilities (clean cooking stoves and pyrolytic units);
- Providing stable soil carbon sinks thanks biochar application to soil with an estimated life exceeding one thousand years;
- Stimulating plant growth, absorbing more CO2;
- Reducing the need for fertilizers, thus reducing associated emissions;
- Reducing soil emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), generated by decomposition of agricultural and agro-industrial wastes.