Burning bricks to help solve Cameroon's fuelwood problem

20 November 2000, Yokohama, Japan

Deforestation in Cameroon could be reduced if a new wood-briquetting system being tested there becomes widely adopted.

The system uses sawmill waste such as sawdust, planer shavings and chipper dust to produce carbonised briquettes for use in domestic fires and stoves.

"Fifty per cent of the population in the north of Cameroon suffers from an acute shortage of fuel for cooking," said Dr Augustin Simo, leader of the ITTO-funded project that is introducing the technology.

Using sawmill waste to produce briquettes will provide fuel for local people, decreasing the need to harvest fuelwood from native forests, he said. Firewood-gathering is widely believed to be a key agent of deforestation in many developing countries worldwide.

The introduction of the briquetting system will also help increase the profitability of sawmills, which should add value to forests and therefore help in their sustainable management, said Dr Simo. And it will reduce the pollution problem caused by previous methods of sawmill residue disposal.

An ITTO-funded team of experts will arrive in Cameroon shortly to commission the new wood-briquetting system at a sawmill near Yaounde, Cameroon's capital. The team will be led by Dr Koh Mok Poh from the Forest Research Institute Malaysia and includes technicians from Bioscan Manufacturing in Kuala Lumpur, which has developed the technology.

According to a spokesperson for Bioscan, the briquetting system "requires no addition of chemicals such as adhesives", relying on physical means to form the briquettes. The value of the briquettes is then improved by a simple carbonising process that produces a high-energy charcoal product.

ITTO's Executive Director, Dr Sobral, said that the project was a good example of technology transfer through effective international cooperation.

"We have donors - the Government of Japan and the Common Fund for Commodities - contributing finance through an intergovernmental organization - ITTO - to bring Malaysian technology to a developing country in Africa," he said. "And by turning waste into a resource we are helping to solve some critical problems there."

If the trial commissioning is successful, follow-up activities to assess local acceptance of the briquettes will be carried out.

For more information contact: Dr Hoi Why Kong (Malaysia) at hoiwk@frim.gov.my or Dr Augustin Simo (Cameroon) at asimo@camnet.cm