From waste product to sustainable energy solution

The Royal Norwegian Society for Development and Tanzania Traditional Energy Development and Environment Organization (TATEDO) are collaborating in respect of promoting bio-coal from rice husks as a sustainable-energy alternative to wood and charcoal. There is a particular focus on drawing women into this work.

Project background

Deforestation is a significant environmental problem in Tanzania. Each year, the equivalent of four times as much forest as is felled in Norway vanishes without replanting.  Much of this wood goes as private household fuel for cooking. It would be a good and constructive environmental initiative if the need for fuel can be met in another way.

Together with Rural Urban Development Initiatives (RUDI), the Royal Norwegian Society for Development has been working together with small-scale rice growers since 2007 with a focus on increasing incomes through organising the growers, strengthening the role of women, securing market access and enabling access to micro-credit.

Increased access to rice also increases the amount of rice husk. This is often left lying in great mounds, burned or dumped in the forest, resulting in environmentally-damaging carbon emissions.

By allowing rice-husk waste to be carbonised in a pyrolysis process, it can be turned into energy-rich bio-coal and be pressed into saleable briquettes. These can be used in cooking, where they are a sustainable energy alternative to burning wood or charcoal. The pyrolysis process also produces surplus heat and/or gas which can be used as renewable energy for food preparation.

Bio-coal mixed into the soil can also benefit crop yields by working as a soil-improvement medium. The carbon from the coal will have long-term stable storage, thus functioning as a climate measure.

The project is supported by the Nordic Climate Facility - a fund established by the Nordic Development Fund and the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation.

About the project

Given sensible organisation, the operation of small-scale units for renewable energy has a great potential as extra income for small producers. The goal is to develop renewable energy as a business area for organised small producers. Ten ovens for carbonising rice husks are to be built and three demonstration areas are to laid out to show the effect of the bio-coal on rice crops.

The project will be carried out in three districts in Tanzania during the period spring 2013 - spring 2015. The Royal Norwegian Society for Development will reach out to 15 000 small growers who are organised in 18 local grower organisations.

In particular, the Royal Norwegian Society for Development wishes to focus on women in this project. Many of the women in Tanzania are uneducated and have only basic literacy skills. Because women marry early, the boys are often given priority in further education. The women, however, form 80-90 percent of the agricultural workforce and play an important role in agriculture.

Through the Royal Norwegian Society for Development’s project they also gain an opportunity to run, for instance, a local bakery or catering establishment. This also results in the local population gaining an additional income stream.

Our contribution and role

The Royal Norwegian Society for Development coordinates the project in collaboration with our 18 local producer organisations in Tanzania

  • Helping TATEDO to develop functional and environmentally-friendly ovens that are not based on using firewood
  • The Royal Norwegian Society for Development will ensure that established women’s groups receive help to establish bakery businesses based on surplus heat from the ovens
  •  In collaboration with RUDI, laying out demonstration areas fir rice growing in which the effect of bio-coal as a soil additive together with mineral-based fertilisers can be observed
  • Norges Vel is cooperating with NGI having testfields for rice production to see the effect of the application of biochar


  • In the first phase of the project, the work has concentrated on improving ovens in terms of energy efficiency in order to reduce emissions of flammable gases and reduce the use of firewood
  • The rice growers are already well organised in well-functioning production groups and they are now waiting to be able to start building the first ovens

Contact us

Johan Ellingsen, senior advisor

Mobile: +47 909 21 568

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