Capitalising on Namibia’s Encroacher Bush

Bush encroachment, or the rapid spread of native bush and shrub species, is one of the greatest challenges currently facing Namibia that poses serious environmental and economic threats.

The country, located on the south-west coast of southern Africa, has an estimated 45 million hectares of land affected by encroacher bush. The bush not only impacts land productivity and inhibits agriculture and livestock farming practices, but also has adverse effects on habitat and hinders the movement of wildlife—such as cheetahs— threatening biodiversity. To put the total area affected by encroacher bush into perspective, the total permanent grassland in the EU-28 spans approximately 59.5 million hectares.

Fully mechanised bush harvesting operations of Organic Energy Solutions, Namibia, July 2016. The harvested biomass is utilised to fuel a boiler system at Namibia Breweries Limited. (Photo courtesy of N-BiG)

Despite extraction efforts, bush encroachment sees an annual increase of 3.2% and continues consuming the country’s most productive lands. Common methods used to fight bush encroachment have often included the use of arboricide, which entails environmental effects and high costs. However, the utilisation of the bush for bioenergy is a relatively new phenomenon that, in addition to helping remove large amounts of the bush, offers manifold benefits to local communities.

Dagmar Honsbein, Executive Director of the Namibia-Biomass industry Group (N-BiG), spoke with AEBIOM about the integral role bioenergy can play in upscaling activities to restore Namibia’s habitat and native grasslands.

“As it stands now, Namibian biomass resource could sustain fuelling a power plant of some hundred MW. As the spread of encroacher bush is over a too widespread area, the installation of several smaller-sized, decentralised plants of (e.g.) up to 40 MW would be of particular importance. Our success to thus meaningfully curb the bush-challenge will be measured by our ability to invest in a budding industry and cooperate with the right partners in a concerted manner for a long period,” Honsbein explained.

Want to learn more about Namibia’s encroacher bush? Dagmar Honsbein will be further highlighting the potential of encroacher bush utilisation for bioenergy in AEBIOM’s Webinar on Solid Biomass Residues and Waste in Southern Africa on Monday, June 12th 15:00-17:00 CEST. Interested? Listen to the full recording and access presentations here.

For more information on N-BiG and their activities, visit their website