Cash From Trash and Trees [analysis]

ONE of the sunniest countries in the world, a pleasant year-round climate makes Namibia a lovely country to live in and an attractive holiday destination. Arid and large parts are covered by the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, water is scarce, the environment fragile, and natural resources and waste must be well managed.

Given its small population, according to Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF) 2,2 million Namibians astonishingly produce 3,000 tonnes of waste every day. Established in 2011, RNF is comprised of companies and interest groups with a focus on promoting recycling and the reuse of waste.

All over the world recycling and the reuse of material is under the spotlight. Due to Namibia’s environmental fragility, recycling is no longer debated. It has taken place for decades.

Progress has been significant and received a boost in 2008 when an obstacle was removed. Firms in the waste reuse business came together to launch an initiative that brings recycling to the community with collection points placed strategically around suburbs and at shopping centres. Resultantly, people no longer have to incur the expense of transporting waste to the premises of recycling firms for processing.

Namibia is a trailblazer as for a long time there has been buy-in that managing waste is a sensible strategy and that it makes economic sense too. Not only when it comes to waste recycling, but also as it relates to managing the country’s fragile environment.

Take for example the prosopis tree believed to cause more harm to Namibia’s environment than good. Originating from the arid regions of Mexico, pods were imported in the 1940’s as cattle fodder. Prosopis spread as indigested seeds were distributed by livestock in the veld and today forests of prosopis trees grow in river beds around the country.

Environmentalists say prosopis poses a serious challenge in terms of land, water and natural resource management, and many consider it a threat to Namibia’s agricultural sector. Attempts have been made, reportedly with limited success, to eradicate or control its spreading. The tree grows in most soil types to heights of between 10 and 20 metres. It requires minimal surface water as a long root system helps the prosopis sustain itself by extracting moisture deep underground.

Many say the prosopis has arrived to stay. So for a community interest group in Aranos it seemed logical to explore ways to make productive and profitable use of the timber. They believe that the hard and durable wood of a prosopis tree can be used as building material, to make furniture, chipboard and as a source of energy for cooking and heating.

Situated in Namibia’s Hardap region among the spectacular red dunes of the Kalahari, Aranos with its population of about 4,500 gained town status in August 2010. Although a business hub for the surrounding farming community, to a visitor it soon becomes obvious that the town’s local economy can do with an investment boost.

This is set to happen as a local interest group comprised of farmers, entrepreneurs, business and community leaders are of the view that prosopis trees around Aranos and all over Hardap might hold the key to the town’s future development.

Although a business idea in its infancy, with more research and a feasibility study still to be conducted, the group in Aranos is exploring business opportunities to be derived from felling prosopis trees and then adding value to the processed timber.

An exciting development in a marginal town, which viewed from a wealth and job creation angle, can do with a breath of fresh air. Also manifestation that innovatively and enterprisingly Namibians believe cash can be made, not only from trash, but from prosopis trees too.

Source : The Namibian