Nature Conservancy


Sustainable Charcoal Production

As per the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH WebSite, “Bush encroachment on rangeland is causing massive economic and ecological damage in Namibia. The most significant consequences of bush encroachment are reduced carrying capacity of affected rangeland as well as reduced groundwater recharge and biodiversity through habitat loss.”

Taking this into consideration, Omalanga Safaris has been working side-by-side with GIZ on their Bush Control and Biomass Utilization project. The purpose of this project is to improve “the economic utilization of biomass from controlled bush thinning of rangeland.” Through this project, “selected value chains were piloted, including the production of animal feed and the modernization of charcoal production through kilns.”

First of all, “bush based animal feed creates a true win-win situation: it is an immediate remedy in times of fodder shortage and it contributes to rangeland improvement in the long-run.” It is not only possible to produce animal fodder locally, using leaves and branches of encroacher bush species in combination with available supplements, but extensive research has shown that such production is not only economically viable but also free of health-related risks for the animals if applied correctly. 

Our second and most important goal in working with this project has to do with the charcoal. Namibia has been discovered as a preferred source of charcoal by international markets. At the same time, demand for local charcoal is growing so much that it is starting to overtake supply. It is estimated that Namibia exported around 160,000 tons of charcoal in 2016, and that figure is expected to grow by 25% by 2020 and stand at 200,000 tons.

According to WWF UK, “the UK is the third largest importer of charcoal (by volume) from tropical and subtropical countries (after Germany and Belgium). The largest country in terms of volume supplying the UK in 2014 was Namibia.”

Michal Brink, CMO Namibia Group Scheme CEO, said at the Namibia Charcoal Association’s (NCA) annual conference in 2018, that Namibia is probably one of the world’s most sought-after charcoal suppliers in the world. “It is thanks to the production of good quality charcoal, the fact that Namibia complies with European timber regulation law and it seems to be an inexhaustible source,” he said.

The NCA’s chairman and owner of Omalanga Safaris, Gunter Schwalm, said his goal during his presidency would be to make Namibia the world’s largest charcoal exporter.

It is for this reason that we got FSC certified for our charcoal production and we, like the FSC, are “committed to continuous improvement, sustainability, collaboration and innovation.” FSC forest management certification standards are based on the FSC Principles and Criteria for forest stewardship.

Since 2016, FSC has been analyzing charcoal sold in FSC certified bags to make sure which forest species was used for charcoal production. We are proud to provide our end consumer with the assurance that our FSC certified charcoal comes from a sustainable source.

Managing freshwater resources

Semi-arid and arid areas are particularly exposed to the impacts of climate change on freshwater. Many of these areas, like Namibia, will suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change. Efforts to offset declining surface water availability due to increasing precipitation variability will be hampered by the fact that groundwater recharge will decrease considerably in some already water-stressed regions, where vulnerability is often exacerbated by the rapid increase in population and water demand.

Improved water management reduces water consumption and recycles nutrients and organics. That is why at Omalanga Safaris, we attempt to aid in the access to improved and, possibly, productive eco-sanitation for the local communities and the animals. With this, we can improve water supply and sanitation services, reduce wastewater discharge, and improve environmental health.

Breeding endangered species

Namibia is home to a number of vulnerable and endangered species, including the black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, African elephant, African wild dog, Cape griffon, ground pangolin, cheetah, leopard, African lion and the Lappet-faced vulture.

At Omalanga Safaris we don’t just practice sustainable hunting, which is an important conservation tool which provides livelihoods, incentives for habitat conservation, and profits which can be invested for conservation purposes. We also invest our time, money and research on breeding the species that are vulnerable and endangered.

Our current priority is the Cape griffon and the Lappet-faced vulture. These two vulture subspecies are in grave danger of becoming extinct in Namibia. The vulture population in Namibia has suffered just as much as the rhino and elephant populations due to poaching. Poachers poison the carcasses to prevent farmers or game rangers from noticing that there is a dead animal nearby and this, in turn, kills the vultures. It is estimated that nearly 100 creatures are killed unintentionally by poisoning 1 animal intentionally. However, many farmers and local communities are also guilty of contributing to this statistic because they often poison predators to try and keep them away from their livestock, even though there are many eco-friendly methods of protecting them.

At Omalanga Safaris, breeding is carefully managed to control numbers and to prevent inbreeding. The aim is to ensure as much genetic variation in the population as possible. So far, our efforts have shown considerable success and we hope to expand on these efforts as circumstances allow.


Recovery of grassland and important bush

Along with our sustainable charcoal production project, which goes and-in-hand with bush encroachment control, we also put a lot of effort into the recovery of grassland and bushveld. 

Through Namibia’s National Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy (2012), Omalanga Safaris aims to manage grasses for effective recovery and rest. This is the most important principle of adaptive grazing management. Perennial and preferred species of grass are usually grazed first and most intensively. They need to recover from previous grazing completely until they have set seed before being grazed again. 

Grazing should stimulate grass production and not inhibit it. Grazing domestic livestock like cattle and some sheep breeds do not browse much. At Omalanga Safaris, we have some of the most effective browsers on our farm – giraffe, kudu, duiker, klipspringer and nyala. They assist us in the effective management and utilization of grasses and shrubs. 

In addition, we do as much as we can to enhance the soil condition for grasses to flourish, plan and prepare for droughts and carefully monitor the resource base.