In 2014, The Ivory Foundation supported a scientific study conducted by the University of Agriculture of Botswana (BUAN) in Gaborone.


Study of the evolution of the "Marama" edible plant from the Kalahari Desert, with different type of soils and amendments
Study of the evolution of the “Marama” edible plant from the Kalahari Desert, with different type of soils and amendments.

This research focused on the effects of biochar, a solid material obtained through the carbonization of biomass, on the poor soils of the Kalahari Desert, which are sandy and saline.

Biochar improves soil fertility, leading to higher agricultural yields. The Ivory Foundation funded the establishment of biochar burners at BUAN and in other areas of the region (including Bulembu, Eswatini) to practically experiment with this innovation within vulnerable communities.

Biochar offers numerous benefits for agriculture, including increasing crop yields, reducing agricultural pollution, retaining moisture, and promoting the regeneration of depleted soils.

MAUN greenhouse and experimentations in Gaborone, Botswana
BUAN greenhouse and experimentations in Gaborone, Botswana

The pilot project launched by The Ivory Foundation in Southern Africa includes the establishment of three biochar burners, which are then used for university research and distributed to local communities in each region. The goal is to significantly increase their food production and improve their living conditions through this innovation.

A partnership has also been established with the Okavango Research Institute (ORI), located in Maun, to experiment with biochar in conjunction with elephant dung in a protected and sensitive floodplain area.

How is biochar made?

Biochar is obtained through the pyrolysis of biomass (pyro=fire – lysis=decomposition). Pyrolysis is the decomposition of an organic compound by heat to obtain other products that it did not originally contain. The process is carried out in the absence of oxygen or in a low-oxygen atmosphere to prevent oxidation and combustion (the operation does not produce a flame).

Biochar also has the ability to sequester carbon, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is also an interesting solution for managing plant waste.

Once produced, biochar can be finely ground and spread over agricultural crops and incorporated into the top layer of the soil

Préparation de la biomasse pour remplir le brûleur. Biochar venant d'être produit.
Preparing the biomass to fill the burner. Newly produced biochar.

Biochar, therefore, offers several advantages for agriculture:

-It increases crop yields, sometimes significantly, especially if the soil is in poor condition.
-It reduces agricultural pollution to the environment.
-It retains moisture, helping crops withstand periods of drought.
-It has the ability to regenerate depleted soils and promotes the growth of essential microorganisms for nutrient absorption, such as soil mycorrhizal fungi.

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