Wood Energy Catalogue

Malawi Charcoal Project - Experience and lessons of using softwood wastes from large plantations as feedstock

Countries of implementation

This World Bank working paper draws together the experience of the Malawi Charcoal Project from 1986 until mid-1989. With a total installed capacity of 9,500 tons per year, the project was the largest semi-industrial charcoal production program implemented in sub-Saharan Africa by 1990.

A unique feature of the project is that its feedstock is provided by softwood wastes generated on large government plantations. Given this unusual resource base and its location, the project had to seek new solutions regarding the logistics and organizational set-up of production schemes, the choice of carbonization technologies, and the marketing of a product which, in terms of primary and secondary fuel properties, has little in common with traditional hardwood charcoal. Also, the project had to come to terms with disadvantages due to large transport distances and handling difficulties. The project has demonstrated that softwood charcoal is a technically feasible and economically viable alternative to fuelwood and/or coal. However, additional marketing initiatives and a stronger policy support will be required to foster a wider use of softwood charcoal.

Malawi, charcoal, woodfuel, softwood, plantations, charcoal kiln, feedstock supply, charcoal quality, carbonization technology, economic viability, technical feasibility
Type of initiatives
Program or Project
Program/Project Sub category
Resource/supply enhancement, Conversion efficiency improvement
Level of intervention
Grassroot site only
Responsible agencies
World Bank