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Sustainable charcoal traceability for enhanced forest protection and community livelihoods in Cambodia

Cambodia relies on wood fuels, such as firewood, charcoal and sawdust, to meet its energy demand. Charcoal production alone provides income to more than 80,000 farmers.

As people continue to migrate to the country’s urban centers, the consumption of charcoal is expected to remain high.

charcoal burning 2017However, Cambodia has the highest rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia (according to FAO findings). Continued demand for wood fuels will only lead to increased pressure on forest ecosystems.

Sustainable charcoal production and consumption technologies and practices are therefore urgently needed.

With the support of UNEP-DTU, GERES is providing technical assistance to the Royal Government of Cambodia for the development of a sustainable charcoal sector. In parallel, GERES is also supporting the creation of the Cambodian Sustainable Charcoal Producers Association.

However, the production of sustainable charcoal has not been able to compete with that of illegal charcoal. One of the main barriers is the inability to differentiate between sustainably sourced and illegally sourced (and sold at a very low price) charcoal.

PEFC and charcoal traceability

To ensure the traceability of sustainable charcoal, Chain of Custody certification needs to be developed. This is where the 2017 PEFC Collaboration Fund project comes in.

We are supporting GERES (Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity) as they leverage Chain of Custody certification of sustainable charcoal in order to enhance forest protection and community livelihoods.

The project began with building the capacity of the Forestry Administration, enabling them to contribute to the development of a sustainable charcoal certification system. This included the creation of a low-cost procedure for the definition of sustainable production quotas.

Online, the development of the sustainable charcoal market platform is ongoing and the first version of the smartphone-based sustainable charcoal Chain of Custody app has just been released.

On the ground, GERES has trained seven community forestry groups and six traditional charcoal producers on sustainable harvesting methods following silviculture practices. They have also received training and on energy efficient charcoal production through the improvement of their current practices.

The first sustainable charcoal batch is expected to reach Phnom Penh restaurants and households by June/July of this year, offering a competitive price and quality, and the fastest delivery time on the market

Finally, the project aims to develop the market for certified sustainable charcoal. Project partners will raise awareness of certification and the label among charcoal retailers and consumers.

Implementing organization

GERES (Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity) has been providing sustainable and energy-efficient solutions to improve the livelihoods and economic empowerment of vulnerable populations since 1976.

Project partners

RECOFTC - The Center for People and Forests