Report 1: State of the Art of Biochar Systems in the Tropics with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa

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Potential Analysis of Biochar-Systems for Improved Soil and Nutrient Management in Ethiopian Agriculture


The population of Ethiopia is growing rapidly, increasing the food demand and the pressure on soils and other natural ressources. In the highlands of Ethiopia, relatively fertile soils of volcanic origin (Nitisols) predominate. However, many of them are affected by several fertility constraints, such as erosion, nutrient depletion, acidity or waterlogging. On behalf of the German Government, the Federal Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources (BGR) is working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Ressources and international partners to assess the potential of biochar as a new strategy for Ethiopia to counteract its soil degradation. Recent research around the globe has shown that using biochar as a soil conditioner can amend these issues, when not applied purely to the soil but in combination with other organic amendments, such as compost, urine or manure. However, more research on a local level is necessary to predict the long-term effects of biochar on crops, soils, climate, humans and the whole environment. Key factors of these effects are the technology and the feedstock sources used for the production of biochar. Production technologies are available from small-scale cook stoves up to sophisticated large-scale pyrolysis plants. Whereas feedstocks should be carefully selected from nutrient-poor organic waste, in order to avoid nutrient losses and biomass competition. However, not only technical factors are vital for the implementation of biochar into cropping systems, but also social and political ones. The cultural compatibility and political conditions need to be taken into consideration as well.

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Report 1: State of the Art of Biochar Systems in the Tropics with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa


This work was made possible through the generous financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR, The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources). We thank the Soil Fertility Improvement Directorate of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MOANR), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH Ethiopia country office, Jimma University, Cornell University, and Biochar Europe UG for the excellent support and encouragement during the preparation of this report. We also express our special gratitude to Andreas Möller and Anja Volk from BGR and to Tefera Solomon and Kassaye Tilahun from the Soil Fertility Improvement Directorate of Ethiopia’s MOANR for their leadership, guidance and support without whom this work would not have been possible.

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Socio-economic scenario; Ethiopia; Climate smart biochar systems; biomass resource assessment; soil fertility improvement


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