NDF - Financing for climate change and development projects

NCF: From Waste to Local Business Development and Vigorous Soil [NDF C3 D14]

The project has promoted use of biochar produced from agricultural waste and business development among women’s groups in Tanzania.

From Waste to Local Business Development and Vigorous Soil
Ref: NDF C3 D14

Nordic Partner: The Royal Norwegian Society for Development (Norges Vel)
Local Partner: Tanzania Traditional Energy Development  Organisation (TaTEDO) and Rural Urban Development Initiatives (RUDI)
Other Partners: Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI)
Total Project Cost: EUR 510,925
NCF Financing: EUR 311,571
Agreement Signed: 22 March 2013
Project Classification: Mitigation/Adaptation
Duration: 59 Months

Project Objective
The objective of the project was to contribute to improved small-holder livelihoods in three districts in Tanzania through local business development, improved soil quality, profitability in rice production and the use of renewable energy technologies.


The project aimed originally to install multifunctional carbonisation retorts powered by rice husk and other agricultural waste. The retorts would have produced biochar, which serves to increase local soil quality by binding nutrients and improving water retention capacity, and be sold by local entrepreneurs. Project concept was however modified and the retorts which would have produced biochar to increase local soil quality by binding nutrients and improving water retention capacity were replaced by rice husk gasification technology which would have produced electricity to a micro-grid. At the end the gasification technology was not implemented either since the government decided to electrify the project areas making the gasifiers redundant. The project established 10 women’s entrepreneur groups which were introduced into a lending scheme called the Village Community Bank (VICOBA).

The project has delivered three main outputs:

i) Production of 100 tonnes of biochar which was used as soil improver at 10 demonstration plots;
ii) Formation of 10 women’s groups who were trained in entrepreneurial skills
iii) Development of eight business plans and establishment of five renewable energy businesses in the sales of solar lights/lanterns and efficient biomass and biochar cook stoves.

Relevance for Climate Change

Agriculture and food security is the top priority in the Tanzania National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA). The targeted project areas are vulnerable to climate change, and they are at a risk of experiencing more unpredictable and intensive rainfall patterns, resulting in lower yields or even crop losses. The targeted beneficiaries were expected to have a better understanding of the importance of long-term profitable soil management in order to mitigate the increasing climate vulnerability. The use of biochar can improve the water retention capacity in poor soils, thus making farmers better adapted to a harsher and dryer climate. Decomposing agricultural waste produces methane emissions that can be avoided by turning the waste into biochar. When biochar is mixed with soil, the carbon is removed from the carbon cycle and will have a life cycle of several hundreds of years. In addition, making biochar from rice husks replacing traditional charcoal will reduce the risk for forest degradation.

Innovation and Knowledge Transfer

The initial project idea was innovative in that the production process would have promoted synergies between various production phases enhancing possibilities for income generating activities in different sectors. Although biochar has been used as a soil enhancer in other parts of the world for centuries, it is still relatively unknown in Tanzania, yet it has great potential, particularly in areas of sandy-acid soils where food productivity is low and access to fertilisers is limited.

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