Promoting Cleaner Charcoal Production

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There has been political interest to solve the black cloud emitted from charcoal production. CDM Awareness and Promotion Unit has helped overcome these challenges of the black cloud by providing a team of experts to solve environmental problems by find the appropriate technology, and ensuring that the technology is affordable. The Awareness and Promotion Unit also allowed for access to financing that allowed for the sustainability of the operations.

Purpose of the activity

There was a need to improve the local environment in Egypt from the production of charcoal in an environmentally friendly manner which is sustainable while not impacting the livelihood of the locals.

Approximately 14 million tons of wood residues from old trees, plantations, and agricultural trimmings are produced annually. About 6.5 million tons of the wood is utilized in furniture manufacturing and other industries. The remaining 7.5 million tons are used as the feedstock for charcoal manufacturing in Egypt by means of traditional earth-pits. It is an important industry for producing charcoal for Barbequing and for Shisha and provides income for the local producers for export.

Charcoal is produced by firing small pieces of wood that are coming from farm trees in a open pit covered with clay for insulation under a slow burn that takes between 15-21 days. The open pit is located near a water source, such as a water channel, to turn down the fire after the completion of the burn.

Original issue addressed by the activity

Currently, more than 1,000 open charcoaling pits (Traditional Open Pits – TOPs) exist in Egypt. Operation of these TOPs leads to the situation when many harmful pollutants are being emitted to the atmosphere: methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOX), solid particles, tar, formaldehyde, phenols, hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds. In addition, emissions resulting from the TOPs operation are considered one of the main contributors to the “black cloud episodes” during the autumn seasons in Great Cairo region.

The neighbors of the Charcoal producers were constantly complaining to the governmental authorities because a black cloud was hurting their health due to the harmful emissions, such as NOx and Sox. As a result, the Charcoal producers received many fines for air and water pollution. The old technology also damages the soil because the production is done directly on the soil and the ashes remain in the soil and in the area, which reduce agriculture productivity in the area.

There have been efforts done for many years to solve the problem with new technology for charcoal production, but the proposed technologies did not comply with the Egyptian environmental law.

Strategy / approach chosen to address the issue

The strategy was to propose a new technology that complied with the environment law and to introduce the model to all charcoal producers so that they shift their production to the new clean technology.

In addition, the project strategy was to use the CDM mechanism to allow for the use of Carbon Credits to finance the implementation. Otherwise, the project would not be economic.

One obstacle in registering the project as a CDM was the approved methodology provided by the UNFCCC was not applicable to the situation. An international expert assisted the unit to modify the methodology to fit the programme and the approval was made by the UNFCCC.

Implementation of the strategy/ chosen approach

The first step was to find the technology that complied with the guidelines. The locally manufactured kiln did not comply with the environmental limits. Therefore the CDM Awareness and Promotion Unit started to search for other technologies that complied with Egyptian standards for safety and air quality. After searching, the team found that the Ukrainian Charcoal kiln that met their requirements.

It was decided to import one kiln as a prototype funded by the Environmental Protection Fund in the Ministry of Environment, a serious stakeholder that wanted to solve the environmental problems. The governorate in Kalubaya was another serious stakeholder who is interested to solve the environmental problem, because they had the largest number of local producers, agreed to host the prototype. The Engineering Department in Ministry of Environment, is calling for a tender to prepare the infrastructure as a contribution from Ministry of Environment.

An agreement was made with the Central Lab in the MSEA to test the emissions of the kiln. After proving that the kiln met all the requirements, the prototype will be used to demonstrate its operation and its benefits to the local charcoal producers.


  1. Mechanized charcoal kilns will allow refueling of pyrolysis gases that help in reducing methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOX), and particulate matter. This will result in improving the environmental safety and health conditions of both the labor and the residents in the nearby locations.
  2. Replacement of TOPs by mechanized kilns will decrease negative impacts on vegetations since tar and carbon particulates emitted from TOPs precipitate afterwards in the plant leaves of vegetations.
  3. An average size TOP can consume up to 30 m3 of water per cycle for cooling purposes. The wastewater contains significant amounts of tar and ashes and is usually discharged back in agricultural waterways, and thus causing contamination of ground water. On the contrary, no water is used for charcoal cooling when mechanized kilns are used, and thus implementation of the mechanized kilns for charcoal production will preserve water resources.
  4. New mechanized kilns are more efficient than TOPs, allowing to generate the same amount of charcoal from less amount of raw materials. Therefore the amount of production increases by using the same amount of raw material which leads to raise the living standards of charcoal community.

Results and Impacts

Describe any results and/or impacts achieved, positive or negative.


What kind of supporting sources are available which attest to the lesson learned? Such evidence can be quantitative or qualitative, and come from a variety of sources, e.g. evaluation findings, program participants’ experiences, expert opinion, etc. Consider the question: what is the evidence that the lesson was actually "learnt"?

Next Steps

Describe any planned next steps in implementation or corrective action as a result of this good lesson learned.

Potential replication / application

Please describe briefly the potential application of this lesson to programming beyond the original context. (Is the lesson meaningful enough to guide practice in other contexts (e.g. nationally, regionally etc.)? Who would likely be interested in this lesson, and what kind of information/evidence would they like to see?)

Information products

Promotion brochure to be prepared for the protype after testing.


Where possible, please provide photographs or other images illustrating the story above or the success of the programme.

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