Developing policies on biochar to effectively exploit the “black gold” source of the agricultural sector

On March 18, 2024, in Hanoi, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in coordination with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Vietnam Cleaner Production Center Company Limited (VNCPC) organized “Consultation Meeting on the policy and recommendation report to promote biochar production and use in Vietnam”. The consultation workshop attracted nearly 30 delegates from representatives of ministries, branches, departments, institutes, universities, centers under MARD, agricultural associations, businesses, and national experts.

During the meeting, Mr. Vu Thanh Liem, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Department (ICD) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) stated that the agricultural sector is making efforts to implement the Government’s tasks. The sector is also keeping up with the global trend of “green” and “clean” practices. The goal is to develop clean energy and make the most of by-products and waste from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. These sources can be converted into renewable resources, which can serve as an important input to prolong the value-added chain in agriculture.

Mr. Vu Thanh Liem, Deputy Director of the ICD – MARD chaired the meeting

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 agriculture.

Raw materials for biochar production are abundant and diverse with most of them being agricultural by-products such as peanut shells, sugarcane bagasse, rice husks, coconut shells, cocoa shells, bamboo, reeds, and waste from forest exploitation, etc. However, in Vietnam, these raw material sources are often wasted or used at low value. By combining these by-products with biochar production technology, we can solve many environmental problems, create job opportunities in rural areas, and create jobs for people. workforce in rural areas, and provide a good source of fertilizer to replace imported chemical fertilizers. This will result in cost savings and long-term benefits for the environment, while also adding value to the abundant by-product sources in the agricultural sector.

Ms. Le Thanh Thao, Director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Country Representative in Vietnam, said that in 2022, UNIDO coordinated with the MARD, and VNCPC organized 02 technical events. These events were to introduce the concept of biochar and its benefits, specifically in protecting land resources, the living environment, and human health, contributing to the sustainable and green development of Vietnam in general and the agricultural sector in particular.

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

Biochar is becoming more and more popular in Vietnam and is receiving attention from various stakeholders, including researchers, producers, traders, and those who are interested in practical applications. However, there are still several operational and regulatory barriers that are preventing the recognition and application of biochar. These barriers include a lack of standardization and quality control of domestic biochar products, a lack of cooperation and interaction among stakeholders, and the fact that pyrolysis technology for biochar production has not been recognized as a green technology.

UNIDO hopes that with the knowledge and experience from experts, it will provide useful and updated information about the biochar field in Vietnam, not only in technical terms but also in policy aspects. Based on information sharing, we will jointly review and provide comments and consultations for the “Report on review and policy recommendations to promote biochar production and usage in Vietnam”.

The workshop also had the participation of Vina Viet Hien Company Limited, which received technology transfer from Switzerland and successfully manufactured a small-scale pyrolysis system. This system was used to pilot the cooperative model in Vietnam. This is the only unit to successfully receive pyrolysis technology transfer with funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and technical support from the UNIDO. The technology has the potential to convert various types of agricultural waste (rice husks, coffee husks, peat, durian shells…) into thermal energy and biochar. This will increase the value of organic waste and agricultural by-products. Moreover, it brings economic opportunities to farmers and agricultural processors by allowing on-site biomass energy supply while meeting strict emissions standards.

Source: News from the International Support Group(ISG) under the International Cooperation Department – Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (