Turning Namibia’s invasive acacia bushes into charcoal farms

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

The Good Charcoal

In Namibia, Africa, the overgrowth of the Acacia bush threatens open grasslands and wildlife. A company is putting the invasive plant to good use by turning it into charcoal.

Established in 2020, The Good Charcoal started as a three-fold idea between friends Ben Jablonski and Rob Silverman: to offer a chemical-free hardwood lump charcoal in the US, support farmers in Namibia, and help restore grassland habitats to their native state.

The duo worked with locals in Namibia to produce all-natural hardwood charcoal from black-thorn acacia. As a dense wood, acacia charcoal can burn at high temperatures, requiring less product when cooking.

Black-thorn acacia
Black-thorn Acacia

Black-thorn acacia is a plant that grows either as a V-shaped shrub or a single-stemmed tree with a rounded crown. It can grow up to two to eight metres high, and its sharp thorns can be problematic to native animal species. 

The invasive bush is prone to overpopulation, spreading through the open savanna and turning a lush forest into lifeless vegetation.

Since 1940, the dense thorny plant species has choked 40 million hectares of fertile grasslands. Aside from damaging native plant and animal species, it also caused limited access to prey that predators like Cheetahs need to survive.

The company said harvesting and converting the invasive bush into charcoal has helped both the economic livelihoods of Namibians and improved survival rates of native wildlife.

Aside from providing income opportunities for African farmers, the company also helps with food insecurity in the US, donating a free meal to someone in need for every sale of an eight-pound bag of charcoal.

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.

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