The reputation of charcoal is not among the best, and in most instances, this is well deserved as most of it stems from illegal and unsustainable logging and its manufacture, if not managed properly, is highly polluting.
Not so in the KjuonGo project in Cambodia. KjuonGo charcoal directly replaces illegally logged charcoal and it is produced in model kilns that ensure a carbon footprint much less than with the use of traditional charcoal or simple fuelwood. At the same time, KjuonGo charcoal, stemming from sustainably logged community forests, is used to generate additional income in poor communities.
UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre has supported this pragmatic and therefore unique approach to charcoal as a fuel since the project kicked off in September 2019.
On the path to profit
A few days ago, KjuonGo passed an important milestone. Being a legal operation – as opposed to most other charcoal production in the country – puts KjuonGo at a disadvantage. Production must follow stict rules, not only on quotas for logging in the community forests, ensuring their rehabilitation, but also a central ‘transport permit’ without which the charcoal cannot be moved. Cambodia’s Forest Administration just issued a 300 tons transport permit allowing the KjuonGo project to achieve its promised output goal when the project concludes by the end of this year.
This, at the same time, sets KjuonGo on a path to profitability, sourcing wood and wood residues from several sources, building more kilns and expanding its customer base. By the end of 2021, the main drivers of the project – Khmer Green Charcoal, Geres and UNEP Copenhagen Climate Centre – are confident that KjuonGo is ready to stand on its own feet, generating an income to all involved, not least the community forests, and to grow organically by allowing more sustainable charcoal producers to join the KjuonGo platform.