Africa is a continent full of natural resources: its soil contains sought-after raw materials, its wealth of animals and plants is unique worldwide. In many regions, several harvests per year of fruits, vegetables, and corn can be achieved.
Nigeria, the country in which LIEBFEUER Premium Charcoal is produced, is situated at the mid-west coast of this multifaceted continent. From the borders of the Sahelian zone in the north to the Atlantic coast it comprises five climate zones. Eight large national parks, many more natural reserve and three biosphere corridors that Nigeria has established jointly with its neighbouring countries protect the rain forest, the savanna, the mangrove swamps and their ecological diversity.
Against this background we ask you:
„Why do you think that environmental awareness or sustainable production is rather a German or European thing than an African thing?“
- Particularly in Europe and Germany, two obstinate prejudices exist: Everything labelled with „fair trade“, „bio“ or „ecological“ costs twice or three times as much.
- African companies deliver raw materials but no finished „high-end“ products.
With LIEBFEUER Premium Charcoal, we want to disprove both prejudices and show that one of the most genuine cultural products in the world is sustainably produced in Africa and can be exported to Europe as a high-quality product.
The entire added value chain from reforestation to packaging with recycling paper lies in Africa so that work, income and know-how technically pointing the way to the future directly benefit the people living there.
How can charcoal be produced sustainably?
Nigeria has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. But the majority of charcoal produced in Nigeria does not come from large scale charcoal producers or loggers, but small scale community farmers as a sole means of income. Many families live from selling self-produced charcoal on the roadside. The income is just enough to survive and the environment suffers from the deforestation as well as from the exhaust fumes of the piles. Most of this “wild” charcoal is used locally and not exported. An estimated 80% of rural Nigerians cook their meals on charcoal.
Charcoal produced by over-exploitation is the fuel of the poor.
Because most people in Nigeria are poor, the domestic price of charcoal is far below the international price. So if Nigerian charcoal producers do not have access to international markets to sell their products, they have to produce more to make a living. At the same time, the traditional charcoal burners lack the knowledge and financial resources to modernize their charcoal production. This means more CO2 emissions and more trees felled per ton of charcoal produced. For the people this is a vicious circle that keeps them trapped in poverty. A creeping catastrophe for nature.
From this point of view, any European who believes he can save the environment by boycotting tropical charcoal is simply wrong.
On the contrary: the more charcoal exported from Africa to wealthier countries at fair prices, the more income African producers receive and the faster the local economy and infrastructure grow for a better future. This is why in the three P’s its People first, then Planet and Profit.
With LIEBFEUER we want to become a game changer:
The ETGO factory is the first charcoal factory in Nigeria to use a European double retort furnace technology. Twin retort technology means that no external energy supply is required for production. The gases emitted from one chamber are recycled to fire the other chamber, making the production process 98% emission-free and virtually CO2-neutral.
To produce one tonne of charcoal, we need only 1/3 of the amount of raw wood compared to the traditional mound miles of local producers. By convincing more and more local producers to work for us or supply wood, we are significantly reducing the local deforestation rate.
Basically, we only buy species that are abundant in the area.
Our wood supply consists of a combination of hardwood and wood from local and communal producers. In this way we keep transport distances short and strengthen the local economy.
We train the people who supply us with wood how to harvest it without cutting down the tree. This type of timber production enables sustainable forest management.
In order to achieve as gentle and sustainable a management of the forest as possible, we train the forest farmers and pay premiums for the reforestation of taken trees. This effectively reduces land degradation, erosion and soil fertility. At the same time, people gain a reliable income through the regular management of their tree populations.
We cultivate a small plantation on 50 hectares of our own land. Here, too, wood grows for LIEBFEUER and at the same time we have the opportunity to constantly review and further optimise our forestry concepts.
And last but not least, of course: we pack with recycled paper.
Now you want to know why LIEBFEUER does not yet have an FSC seal?
Goals such as those of the FSC seal are important and correct. For the people in Africa themselves, however, they are often hardly attainable. For them, an idea is good when it secures the next and next but one meal. And even better, if it ensures that a family, a village or a region can earn a secure income and build a better future for the children.
Because the needs of the people are very immediate, seals like FSC can hardly influence whether people cut timber illegally and cut down endangered tree species in the process. They do not even come into contact with each other.
In addition, there is a second important factor – also for us as a young company: the application for the certificate and the certification cause considerable costs. For this reason, the FSC seal can only be afforded by globally operating corporations or companies in countries with an already established infrastructure. Only very few African companies belong to it.
The result is that poor rural communities or small African companies trading in timber have less access to international markets where they could achieve higher prices for their products due to the lack of certification.
But sustainability – in our view – starts with investing in people rather than in certificates. That’s why we put the creation of fair jobs, training people and building local infrastructure first.
This does not mean that we do not respect the FSC label, on the contrary.
It is a high goal that we strive for with our work.
We take one step at a time.