Namibia has the world’s largest population of cheetahs, with 90 percent living outside protected reserves on farmlands that make up 85 percent of the country. Cheetahs hunt using bursts of speed in open or semi-open savannah, however, as a result of unpredictable droughts, climate change, and certain livestock farming practices, native thornbush species are growing out of control and encroaching on Namibian farmlands.
With 70 percent of the Namibian population involved in agriculture, bush encroachment poses a major livelihood threat to communities, the cheetah and other indigenous wildlife species.
This loss of habitat not only reduces the available farmland, it reduces available habitat both for cheetahs and their prey species. With less usable land for humans and wildlife, human-wildlife conflict is exacerbated. Habitat loss, whether due to encroaching thornbush or human development, is consequently one of the top threats to the cheetah in the wild.
CCF is actively engaged in habitat restoration for cheetahs through its Bushblok initiative.
Habitat Restoration with Bushblok
In 2001, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated to find a habitat improvement program that would be ecologically and economically viable. CCF identified a business opportunity: processing encroaching bush into high-heat, low-emission, compacted logs for use as a cooking fuel or for home heating. CCF Bush (PTY) Ltd. was established to manufacture the Bushblok product.
Bushblok Production Process
Following an environmental and economic assessment, encroaching bush is harvested either by hand or mechanically. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)™ certifies CCF’s woodland management practices as sustainable, while the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) certifies that our products deliver measurable improvements for wildlife in wild places.
The harvested bush is dried in the sun and then fed into a mechanical chipper before being transported to the processing plant where the chips are milled to size.
These smaller chips are dried and then passed through an extrusion press. Under heat and pressure the chips bond and are extruded as compacted Bushblok product, cut to size, bundled, wrapped and labeled ready for distribution.
CCF has earned praise throughout the world for the CCF Bush Project. Dr. Laurie Marker received the 2008 Intel Tech Environment Award from The Tech Museum and the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement from the University of Southern California for CCF’s Bushblok project. Bushblok was also named a finalist for the St Andrew’s Prize and the BBC World Challenge. In 2012, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, CCF committed to expand its Bushblok program and support the emerging biomass clean energy industry in Namibia. The use of nuisance thorn bush as biomass has interested many energy companies and CCF has provided bush samples to several potential ventures.
Namibia’s Biomass Potential
Namibia has over 10 million hectares of woody biomass which could, if harvested correctly, power southern Africa with sustainable energy. In addition, there is a huge market for wood pellets to the European energy market and with investment a wood pellet factory would do very well in Namibia. Harvesting of bush could employ over 5,000 Namibians.bushblok.com