Namibian Hardwood Charcoal

A Sustainable Solution to Invasive Acacia and Rural Livelihoods


In the vast landscapes of Namibia, an unlikely hero emerges from the struggle against invasive acacia species that threaten the delicate balance of the grasslands. Charcoal production from hardwood, specifically from invasive species like sickle bush (sekelbos), blackthorn (swarthaak), and camel-thorn (kameeldoring), not only offers an eco-friendly solution to invasive plant management but also provides a sustainable livelihood for rural communities. This blog post explores the impact of hardwood charcoal production on battling invasive acacia and its positive effects on the rural population.

The Invasion of Acacia:

Namibia’s grasslands have long been under siege by invasive acacia species, particularly sickle bush, blackthorn, and camel-thorn. These plants, although native to some regions, have thrived and spread rapidly, outcompeting the indigenous vegetation, and altering the ecosystem. The consequences of this invasion are severe, especially for rural communities that rely on the grasslands for cattle grazing.

The Impact on Rural Livelihoods:

As the invasive acacia takes over large territories of grasslands, it hinders the feeding of cattle, a critical source of sustenance and income for rural populations. The dense thicket formed by these invasive species restricts access to grazing areas and decreases the overall carrying capacity of the land for livestock. This, in turn, puts pressure on the already challenging livelihoods of rural communities, exacerbating food insecurity and economic hardships.

Hardwood Charcoal as a Solution:

In the face of this ecological challenge, innovative solutions have emerged, and one such solution lies in the production of hardwood charcoal. By selectively harvesting and processing invasive acacia species like sickle bush, blackthorn, and camel-thorn, communities can not only control the spread of these invasive plants but also generate a valuable resource – hardwood charcoal.

Sustainable Harvesting Practices:

The production of hardwood charcoal from invasive acacia follows sustainable harvesting practices. Instead of clear-cutting entire areas, communities engage in selective harvesting, targeting specific invasive species without damaging the surrounding ecosystem. This approach ensures the regrowth of native vegetation and helps restore the balance in the grasslands over time.

Camel-Thorn: A Charcoal Powerhouse:

Among the invasive acacia species, camel-thorn stands out for its remarkable density, with over 1200kg per dry cubic meter. This characteristic makes camel-thorn an excellent candidate for charcoal production. The density translates to a high energy content in the charcoal, providing an efficient and long-lasting fuel source for households and industries alike. The charcoal produced from such dense and dry raw material burns hotter and longer than European species. For example: the density of Oak is around 650kg per dry cubic metre.

Economic Empowerment:

Hardwood charcoal production not only addresses the ecological challenges posed by invasive acacia but also contributes to the economic empowerment of rural communities. By creating a market for charcoal made from these invasive species, communities can turn an environmental problem into a sustainable source of income. This economic boost enhances resilience and provides opportunities for education, healthcare, and infrastructure development in these rural areas.


Namibian hardwood charcoal, derived from invasive acacia species, represents a shining example of sustainable solutions that address both ecological and socioeconomic challenges. By converting invasive plants into a valuable resource, communities are not only managing the spread of acacia but also fostering economic empowerment and environmental stewardship. As we celebrate the transformative power of hardwood charcoal, we also recognize the resilience and ingenuity of communities working towards a harmonious coexistence with their natural surroundings.

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