July 11, 2011 – BUJUMBURA, Burundi, and MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala., United States – IFDC has released an educational and inspirational film, “Makala,” that illustrates improved charcoal production (carbonization) techniques that are more environmentally sustainable than traditional methods. “Charcoalers,” farmers and others involved in the fuel wood value chain are learning the improved techniques through training from IFDC’s CATALIST/SEW project. CATALIST/SEW is the “Sustainable Energy Production Through Woodlots and Agroforestry” project in the Albertine Rift of Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region. The 40-minute film will be used extensively in the CATALIST/SEW focus countries – Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – to promote both modern carbonization methods and agroforestry.
The film opens with Virunga National Park officials hunting producers who illegally cut down trees in the park, then construct makeshift kilns to quickly make low-quality charcoal. Charcoal produced from wood (known locally as “makala”) continues to be the main source of fuel for cooking in the region. Currently, 90 percent of the charcoal in North Kivu, DRC, comes from Virunga National Park. Because of the intense need for charcoal in the nearby large cities, such as Goma and Butembo, the trees in the park have become endangered.
“The pressure on this park is intense because of the high demand for charcoal as household energy,” said Dr. Toon Defoer, who directed and produced the film for IFDC through his production firm, MOOV-ON.
“MOOV-ON was interested in making this film because it allowed us to document this important issue related to the pressure on one of the most important natural resource reserves in the world,” Defoer said.
CATALIST/SEW partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) to film “Makala,” a documentary on the program’s carbonization and agroforestry training and market development efforts. The film features informative interviews with project officials and several moving testimonials from charcoal producers who have moved from poverty to prosperity as a result of CATALIST/SEW training. Most impressively, the film demonstrates the step-by-step process of the laborious and time-consuming effort to properly produce high quality charcoal.
Traditional methods of charcoal production are energy-inefficient, resulting in the loss of much of the wood in production while also affecting the environment. Through field training sessions, CATALIST/SEW is introducing improved kilns that increase the amount of charcoal produced while using less wood. The improved kilns create less environmental pollution, generate more fuel-efficient charcoal and provide more income for charcoal producers. In addition, training participants learn how to enter and navigate the charcoal market and negotiate prices for their products.
“The project brings a group of people together – men and women – for 12 days, at one place, and we give them practical training using participatory learning activities – learning by doing,” said Aimé Kikuru in the film. Kikuru is the CATALIST/SEW national value chain officer in DRC. “We have a goal of training 500 charcoalers. But we cannot train them all ourselves. That is why we developed our ‘peer-to-peer’ training program.”
In order to spread these modern carbonization techniques quickly, the project calls for a core group of charcoalers to be trained. Then those charcoalers become “master trainers” who continue to train others. This process continues as long as there are charcoalers who wish to learn and benefit from the modern carbonization practices. By extending knowledge about more efficient carbonization methods, CATALIST/SEW is curtailing charcoalers from illegally cutting down trees in Virunga National Park.
The “Makala” film also highlights CATALIST/SEW’s reforestation and agroforestry efforts. Agroforestry is a key component of the project, which has an extensive replanting program. As some trees are cut down and used for carbonization, new seedlings are continually planted, grown and then harvested when they reach maturity. This cycle of growing and harvesting ensures that deforestation does not become a concern. This effort, combined with slower burning, higher quality charcoal yields, will allow the market to continue to grow in a way that is efficient, sustainable and protective of the region’s limited natural resources. Over seven million tree seedlings and fruit trees have been produced in nurseries to date, with a target of 40 million over the life of the project.
IFDC is a public international organization that focuses on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise. The goal of the CATALIST/SEW project (2009-2012) is to decrease land competition between energy production and agricultural production by increasing agricultural productivity and income. Specific project objectives include increased production of fuel wood through micro-woodlots and profitable agroforestry systems, effective and operational fuel wood and charcoal value chains and a favorable environment for the development of a profitable fuel sector. CATALIST/SEW is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kigali, Rwanda, and managed from the IFDC Burundi office.
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