The transformation of unwanted forest residues to valuable renewable energy source to replace fossil fuel in brick industries is an innovation.

August 2, 2017

Nepal Placeholder

The transformation of unwanted forest residues to valuable renewable energy source to replace fossil fuel in brick industries is an innovation.

About the Implementing organization

Name: MinErgy Initiatives

Country: Nepal

Year of establishment: 2011

Type of organization: Legally recognized non-profit status


The forest weeds and residues are one of the major reasons for forest fire hazards as well as inhibiting forest growth. Silviculture operations such as cutting, pruning and singling of forest weeds and residues is a mandatory annual activity as a sustainable forest management practice in all community forests of Nepal. But these practices have not been effective due to lack of financial incentives to carry out the operation. In many cases, even the harvested forest residues are underutilized and left to decay naturally in the forest. These underutilized forest residues are processed to produce charcoal which is then supplied to brick industries to apply as alternative to coal for firing bricks. Production and sales of charcoal to brick industry has incentivize community forest members to carry out the silviculture operations because of additional income opportunities it generates. This has direct positive impact on forest health. Brick industries in Nepal are heavily dependent on imported coal firing bricks. Use of coal is one of the main reasons for excessive emission of pollutants from brick kilns. Firing bricks with forest residue based charcoal is much more environmentally sound and also economical as charcoal has higher heating value than coal. Hence, this innovative idea to use forest residue based charcoal as alternative fuel can create win-win solution in terms of energy in-dependency, environmental sustainability, forest management and livelihoods of poor people.

Nature Element


Type of Action

Sustainable use / Pollution prevention / clean up / Invasive species

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Renewable energy / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The initiative has helped to maintain forest growth, composition and quality of 469 hectares of community forest land in three selected community forests through effective implementation of siliviculture operations. Proper management of forest weeds and residues have helped to reduce the risk of wildfires, which is the major cause of forest destruction in Nepal. The introduction of efficient charring technology has helped to reduce exposure to harmful emissions causing health hazards to the charcoal producers. In addition, charcoal production efficiency has improved by 10% compared to traditional production technology being used by producers. The initiative has successfully demonstrated 25% substitution of coal by charcoal in a brick industry. Application of charcoal for firing bricks has resulted 34 tons of carbon dioxide, 37% suspended particulate matter and 97% sulfur dioxide emission reduction from brick kiln.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Jobs and livelihood – The initiative can provide direct employment opportunities to many poor community forest members engaged in forest residue harvesting and production of charcoal. Many more members of community forest users group will be indirectly be benefitted through access to additional income generated through sales of charcoal.
Renewable energy – Forest residues are annually harvested to maintain good forest health. These unwanted biomass can be processed to produce charcoal, with high energy value and low sulfur content. Charcoal produced from unwanted biomass can be used as a renewable and clean source of energy instead of fossil fuels.
Climate actions – Forests are natural carbon sink. Thinning and pruning to unwanted forest residues helps to maintain forest health and increase forest stock. Similarly, application of charcoal produced from forest residues in place of coal in brick industries can reduce emission of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas.


The initiative has demonstrated that it is feasible to produce charcoal from biomass residue for industrial purpose. The demonstration was carried out in three community forests covering 469 hectares of land and one brick industry in Nepal. Community managed forests are spread all over Nepal. Currently, there are 18,960 community managed forests covering almost 1.8 million hectares of land. There is scope to scale up this initiative in most of these community forests. Similarly, there are about 950 brick industries in Nepal where charcoal can be promoted as alternative fuel. Analysis shows that about 27% coal in brick industries can be sustain-ably replaced by charcoal. However, there is need to raise awareness and build capacities of both community forest users and brick entrepreneurs. Also, there is need to formulate favorable forest resource utilization policies and the financing mechanism for community forest users groups to upscale and further disseminate this initiative.


Some other inter/national organizations are implementing the similar concept and empowering community forest members to produce charcoal from forest and agro residues and to commercially market in the small-scale industries. Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, the national government entity responsible for the promotion of alternative fuel in Nepal has adopted this concept and implemented in their programs. The replicability has been instigated by the rising fuel cost coupled with fuel crisis due to economic blockade. The demand for charcoal has incentivized community forest users to utilize more of the forest residues and hence fueled the forest cleaning practices. On the other hand, the exponential growth of invasive species has gained much attention of policy makers and stakeholders to resort to sustainable but incentive-based forest management practices. Additionally, MinErgy has transferred the knowledge and pilot implemented the similar concept in a brick initiative in Rwanda.

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