NDF - Financing for climate change and development projects

NCF: Pilot Project: Efficiency Enhancement and Entrepreneurship Development in Sustainable Biomass Charcoaling in Ghana [NDF C3 D8]

Photo: Tuomo Utriainen
Tree nursery within the project area.
Photo: Megan McCormick
A worker at a tree nursery.
Photo: Tuomo Utriainen
Pöyry's pilot plant located in Nairobi, Kenya.
Photo: Megan McCormick
Charcoal loading to truck.
Photo: Tuomo Utriainen
Photo: Tuomo Utriainen
Photo: Tuomo Utriainen
The project advocates sustainable forestry in Ghana together with energy-efficient charcoal production.

Pilot Project: Efficiency Enhancement and Entrepreneurship Development in Sustainable Biomass Charcoaling in Ghana
Ref: NDF C3 D8

Nordic Partner: Pöyry Management Consulting Oy
Local Partner: Nature and Development Foundation, NDF (formerly WWF West Africa Forest Programme Office (WAFPO)), Atebubu Traditional Council, Wiase traditional Council, Dwan Traditional Council and Bassa Traditional Council
Other Partners: African Plantations for Sustainable Development (APSD), Ghana
Total Project Cost: EUR 926 788
NCF Financing: EUR 499 998
Agreement Signed: 8 March 2013
Project Classification: Mitigation (with adaptation benefits)
Duration: 39 Months (completed)

Project Objective

The project aimed to create job opportunities in sustainable charcoal production in efforts to fight poverty, reduce GHG emissions and decrease illegal wood harvesting. It built and implemented efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly charcoal production technology that is easy to operate and maintain. In addition, the project undertook to ensure a sustainable source of biomass for the production of charcoal by establishing dedicated plantations and training local stakeholders to maintain and utilise the plantations.


The project advocated sustainable forestry together with energy-efficient charcoal production. The project established 21 energy wood plantations (210 ha) to provide wood for seven charcoal kilns for the use of local entrepreneurs. The plants have corresponding plantations in close proximity, from which the biomass will be harvested for charcoal production. Each kiln consists of chamber wood retort of 4 integrated kilns, made of local bricks.

The land for the plantations and the seven sites for the retort systems were decided together with the local Councils, ASPD and WWF to ensure that the selected lands are otherwise unused or unsuitable for agriculture, and that environmental practices will be adhered to. APSD Ghana Ltd has been instrumental on the ground by assisting the local villagers in establishing the dedicated plantations, providing high quality acacia seedling and in constructing the kilns with 100% local materials. Furthermore, the company has assisted in marketing the charcoal to customers and also in setting up bank accounts to manage the proceedings from the on-going charcoal production.

The work was carried out in two stages. First, the planning, construction and establishment of the plantations, and charcoal retort systems took place. Second, charcoal production was be implemented. Some replantation took also place e.g. due to fires. Local entrepreneurs were trained in the use and maintenance of the kilns for the production. The training will also involve the other entrepreneurs involved in the charcoal value chain to ensure the smooth transportation and handling of the product.

Each installed production plant can produce up to185 tonnes of charcoal per year. After completion, the retorts have been handed over to the entrepreneurs free of charge with agreements in place. Entrepreneurs take care of the kiln maintenance throughout the over the expected 20-year life cycle of the retorts.

Relevance for Climate Change

The project mitigates climate change through the reduction of illegal harvesting of biomass from natural, old growth forests by providing forest plantations on land that is otherwise unused. The installed kilns also help mitigate emissions from charcoal production by substituting traditional methods with more climate friendly solutions. Traditional methods, such as earth mound kilns, have low yields compared to more efficient retort kilns. The project has installed retort kilns that require only one-third of the raw biomass compared to traditional methods. Due to incomplete combustion, traditional charcoal production methods also lead to emissions of methane, among others, which can be mitigated through the improved technology.

Innovation and Knowledge Transfer

The project has introduced a new technology for producing charcoal in a kiln that efficiently uses heat transfer to produce charcoal - product gases (including the combustion of flammable gases) are circulated between the plant’s four integrated kilns.

The novel technology produces consistently higher quality charcoal and requires fewer natural resources than the traditional methods. The holistic initiative spans across the entire value chain of sustainable charcoal production by creating new jobs in the production process as well as in raw material supplies from plantations, transport and selling the charcoal. The designed retorts are fairly affordable and simple to operate and maintain, but proper management is required to sustain operations.  It is envisioned that after project completion, the design could be replicated in nearby wood plantations.

More information

Pöyry Management Consulting
Final Report - Efficiency Enhancement and Entrepreneurship Development in Sustainable Biomass Charcoaling, Ghana