Biochar still lacks policy mechanisms to “green” the agricultural sector

With diverse and abundant raw materials for production, biochar has great application in the agricultural sector. It helps to capture CO2 in the atmosphere and contributes to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, there is still a lack of policy mechanisms to promote the commercialization of this product.

On March 18, 2024, in Hanoi, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) coordinated with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Vietnam Cleaner Production Centre Company Limited (VNCPC) organized a “Consultation meeting on policy review and recommendation report to promote biochar production and use in Vietnam”. The meeting attracted the participation of nearly 30 delegates from representatives of ministries and branches, representatives of units under the MARD, associations, businesses, and national experts.

“The consultation meeting on policy review and recommendation report to promote biochar production and use in Vietnam”  was held in Hanoi, attracting the participation of nearly 30 delegates

Biochar: Cheap raw material – big benefits

At the workshop, Mr. Vu Thanh Liem, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Department (MARD) said that biochar is an environmentally friendly product, brings high economic benefits when used, and is considered a “black gold” in the agricultural sector. In particular, biochar also can absorb about 50% of CO2 in the atmosphere, contributing to a significant reduction in GHG emissions in general and in agriculture.

Mr. Vu Thanh Liem, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Department (MARD) chaired the meeting

Regarding raw materials for biochar production in Vietnam, it is currently very abundant and diverse, most of which are agricultural by-products such as peanut shells, sugarcane bagasse, rice husks, coconut shells, cocoa shells, durian shells… to forest exploitation waste products can be used. In the past, these materials were often burned, causing environmental pollution, or used at very low value.

Putting these materials into biochar production not only solves environmental problems but also helps create jobs for rural areas. More importantly, biochar is also a source of organic fertilizer that helps improve soil and enhance sustainable crop productivity, which can replace chemical fertilizers.

Ms. Le Thi Thanh Thao, Country Representative at UNIDO Vietnam Country Office also said: In 2022, UNIDO coordinated with the MARD and VNCPC to organize 02 technical events on biochar and its benefits in protecting soil resources, living environment, and human health, contributing to the sustainable development of Vietnam.

Ms. Le Thi Thanh Thao, Country Representative at UNIDO Vietnam Country Office shared at the event.

There are still barriers

According to the general assessment of the delegates: The benefits of biochar are becoming more and more known and receiving the attention of relevant parties, from research, production, trade, and practical application. However, there is still a lack of regulations on standardization and quality control of biochar products, a lack of cooperation and interaction between relevant parties, and pyrolysis technology for biochar production has not been recognized as a green technology… These factors are crucial drivers to promote biochar products to be more widely applied in life.

The representative of the UNIDO hopes that the knowledge and experience from experts will provide useful and updated information on the field of biochar in Vietnam, not only in terms of technique but also in terms of policy. On this basis, the organizing unit will receive and provide comments and consultations for the “Report on review and policy recommendations to promote biochar production and use in Vietnam”.

Ms. Do Thi Diu – VNCPC officer shared information about the project and pyrolysis technology

During the workshop, delegates also asked questions to learn more about the applications of biochar, contributed more information about policies, provided comments, and proposed additional research with more information to help develop regulations on quality control standards for biochar. Ministries and trade promotion agencies were also very interested and proposed developing pilot models using pyrolysis technology to create biochar for agricultural enterprises and cooperatives.

Through this meeting, the MARD, other ministries, UNIDO, and partners will coordinate to build a biochar working group including policymakers, researchers, manufacturers/businesses, trade promotion agencies/certification organizations, and users… to improve interaction between relevant parties in promoting production, business, and developing the biochar market, aiming to build a green, clean and sustainable agriculture.

At this event, the website, an online information repository about biochar in Vietnam, was officially introduced. It was established under the financial support of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) through UNIDO to share and disseminate knowledge, lessons, and initiatives in biochar research, production, and trade activities over the country.

Mr. Le Viet Hien – Representative of the unit receiving the transfer of the small-scale pyrolysis system in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Vina Viet Hien Company Limited is the only unit that has received technology transfer from Switzerland and successfully manufactured a pilot small-scale pyrolysis system for the cooperative model. With funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and technical support from UNIDO, this technology has the potential to convert a variety of agricultural wastes into thermal energy and biochar, adding value for organic waste and agricultural residues, while also providing economic opportunities for farmers and agricultural processors, allowing on-site biomass energy supply and meeting strict emission standards.

Biochar Vietnam.