Seminar Proceeding — Biochar for Food Security, Livelihoods, and Combating Climate Change

Summary of the Proceedings

14 July, 2018

BARC, Farm Gate, Dhaka

A pilot-project is on-going to assess the validity of the Akha TLUD stove and biochar for crop production at three locations in Bangladesh.  The core project, introducing the Akha to homes, and educating the public on biochar, is being managed by The Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh, with funding from Kerk in Actie and ICCO-Cooperation of the Netherlands.  Agronomic research is being conducted by collaborating universities and the Government of Bangladesh.  On July 14, 2018, a half-day seminar was conducted to update participants and guests on the latest results.   A 16-page summary can be downloaded (1.6 Mb).

World Soil Day — Bangladesh Soils Low in Organic Matter.

There is a good article by Abu Siddique  in the Dhaka Tribune on low soil organic matter in Bangladesh.

“World Soil Day: Two-fifths of arable land in Bangladesh lacks organic matter”

He interviewed Md Delowar Hossain Molla, director of SRDI.

“According to the Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI), about 42% of the total arable land areas – which is around 43.4 lakh hectares currently lacks the standard proportion of organic matter in the topsoil. … 5% organic matters”

The response of farmers has been to add more fertilizer.  “Records show that the use of such fertilizers in Bangladesh increased by 66% from 1999 to 2008, in tandem with a 340% rise in government subsidies on them over the same period.”

Dhaka Tribune, December 5, 2017

Early Indications of Large Increases in Yields from Using Biochar

Early results from applying biochar from the Akha-Biochar project to soil show a dramatic increase in yield of vegetables.  The biochar is able to make a long-term, stable addition to the soil organic matter.  Farmers are excited, because they see this as ‘free’ fertilizer coming from Akha cookstoves (whilst still using 25-30% less wood fuel that a traditional Chula).  They will be able to cut back on expensive inorganic fertilizers.   Research is being conducted at universities to quantify the response of crop growth to increasing rates of biochar application.  We will know the results soon.

The Akha-Biochar project makes biochar production possible in rural homes, but we need more.  Research is needed into the safe, contaminant-free, production of biochar by the pyrolysis of urban organic wastes.  This will be a major scientific and engineering undertaking.

Given its hot humid climate, and relatively fertile soil, Bangladesh could see a huge benefit from increasing soil organic matter with biochar.

Mahbubul Islam meets Dr. TLUD Anderson at Accra, Ghana

Mahbubul Islam meets Dr. TLUD Paul Anderson at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015, held in Accra, Ghana. Mr. Islam presented a paper called “Cookstove Ecology in Bangladesh: Affordable Gasifiers for Cooking and Biochar” by M. Islam and J.P. Winter

Thanks to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves for covering Mr. Islam’s expenses.

History in the making!

We held a focus group with women to see what they thought of or new naturalized TLUD designs. In general they were astonished, because:

  1. They didn’t think there was sufficient fuel loaded into the TLUD to cook a meal, when in fact, we cooked the meal, boiled water for tea, than sat around and watched the flame.
  2. The didn’t think the apparatus would work, because being top-lit, it is so different from traditional chulas
  3. They liked not to have to stoke the fire.
  4. They liked the almost complete absence of emissions; no smoke
  5. They liked cooking standing up.
  6. They were impressed at the quantity of char left over, and could see how they could sell it to local restaurants.
  7. They asked if they could take it home.
HISTORY: The first families in Bangladesh to make char in a Bangladeshi TLUD.

HISTORY: The first families in Bangladesh to make char in a Bangladeshi TLUD.

BBI Network


Agricultural Research

Report soil resource Mgt Final-Prof.Jahir

Introducing Biochar to Rural Bangladesh:

This synopsis is a introduction to how biochar may be used in Bangladesh to improve sustainable food production, but it is also on how biochar technology will have to be adapted to meet local conditions. The main difficulties are a shortage of  biomass and a large population that has limited disposable income. One approach is to make biochar as a by-product of cooking with gasifier stoves, then use the biochar with composts and manures in homestead gardening. The ultimate goal is to increase food security for a people facing strong consequences of climate change. Meeting this goal is an exciting, interdisciplinary challenge.

Download: Introducting_Biochar_To_Rural_Bangladesh_Synopsis

The Basics of Biochar

Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal substance that is distinguished from other charcoals in its intended use as a soil amendment. Biochar is charcoal that has been produced under conditions that optimize certain characteristics deemed useful in agriculture, such
as high surface area per unit of volume and low amounts of residual resins. The particular heat treatment of organic biomass used to produce biochar contributes to its large surface area and its characteristic ability  to persist in soils with very little biological decay (Lehmann and
Rondon 2006).  While raw organic materials supply nutrients to plants and soil microorganisms,  biochar serves as a catalyst that enhances plant uptake of  nutrients  and water. Compared to other soil amendments, the high surface area and porosity of biochar enable it to adsorb or retain nutrients  and water and also provide a habitat for beneficial micro-organisms  to flourish (Glaser et al. 2002, Lehmann and Rondon 2006, Warnock et al. 2007).

 The Basics of Biochar : A Natural Soil Amendment :

Download: SCM-30


Sustainable biochar is one of the few climate mitigation and soil enhancement technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable.
Supporters of biochar in Bangladesh  are trying to gather enthusiasts together under the umbrella of a network . There are a wide range of economic and agricultural development needs in the country and region. Biochar priorities and interests will be varied but it is hoped that this mix of strengths and needs will help increase the profile of biochar with potential local and international agricultural aid and research groups.

Bangladesh Biochar Initiative

Welcome to the Bangladesh Biochar Initiative (BBI). The BBI is a volunteer organization for sharing information on biochar technology in Bangladesh. Participants include rural extension workers, technicians, homestead gardeners, students and scientists. The BBI hosts seminars and workshops, and will summarize local research results as they become available.

Biochar is charcoal specifically made for adding to soil. It is made from organic residues — preferably from plant residues that are low in nitrogen — that are carbonized at temperatures between 450 – 750 °C in the absence of oxygen (pyrolysis) or with restricted oxygen (gasification).

People have known for millennia that the ash and charcoal remains from hearths are good for plant growth, but only in the last couple of decades have soil scientists realized that charcoal can be particularly beneficial for tropical soils that are low in organic matter, because biochar is much more resilient to decomposition in soil than normal plant residues, so biochar may be used to create long-lasting increases in soil organic matter and plant productivity.

Climate change and global population growth makes the use of biochar even more important. With biochar we can increase crop tolerance to stresses caused by variable weather, and increase food security at the local level in homestead gardens. An ideal use for biochar is in organic waste management. When biochar is combined with compost or manure it will adsorb soluble minerals and nitrogen, and reduce gaseous loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere. Biochar systems are usually carbon-negative, sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.

For more information on the science of biochar, go to the International Biochar Initiative.

The science of biochar is quite young with World-wide research picking-up momentum around 2000-2005. New discoveries are being made about its production, uses and safety. New technology, however, must be appropriate to Bangladesh. It needs to be debated, modified and tested, and the results distributed. For example, there is no ready supply of biomass in Bangladesh for making biochar. Most of the biomass is already spoken for as cooking fuel in rural and peri-urban households. A possible solution is to use gasifier cookstoves that make biochar as a by-product. However, stoves developed in other parts of the world may not be acceptable to our cooking needs, or work with our fuels. Therefore, we need to use the principles of gasification, consult stove users, and see if we can adapt foreign stoves or come-up with new designs. Facilitating this process through the exchange of information and collegial connections is the role of the BBI.

The BBI Website sponsored by the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh