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Saving Senegal’s Forest and Empowering Women at the Same Time

Wood and charcoal burning account for 50% of Senegal’s household energy consumption, contributing to air pollution and deforestation. To reduce ecological damage, an association called Nebeday, which means “tree” in Wolof, the predominant local language in Senegal, hires villagers to produce an innovative energy alternative. Half of Senegal’s households rely on wood or wood charcoal. To combat air pollution and deforestation, a cooperative of women produce biochar, an energy source made from straw. They burn it and mix the charred straw with clay and water. The end result is a carbon-neutral organic charcoal that does not involve chopping down trees. The mixture is pressed and stored, resulting in about 150 pallets of biochar per day. The initiative is diversifying the economy of a rural region where many eke out a living from livestock and fishing. Biochar production has been launched in 18 villages in the region by the Nebeday, the group also plants trees in big cities and small villages alike. The African Union’s Great Green Wall initiative is focusing on the Sahel among other regions to prevent desertification. The biochar project and efforts to combat deforestation are a vital piece of the puzzle.