Huge areas of tropical rainforest are being destroyed to make charcoal for barbecues. The global deforestation is leading to growing problems. Nigeria and the DRC Congo – two of Europe’s main charcoal suppliers – are also affected.
Every year, Europeans use approximately 800,000 tons of charcoal for barbecuing. Seventy percent of the charcoal comes from outside the EU, and the bags often contain remnants of tropical woods. Officially, tropical woods are subject to strict import conditions. But when it comes to wood charcoal, these do not apply.
Worldwide, 2.7 billion people cook and heat with wood or charcoal. The related emission of greenhouse gases is enormous. 55 percent of global wood is used as fuel per year, and much of it is cut illegally in Africa’s bush and tropical forests. Nigeria produces most of its charcoal for export. Especially during dry periods, local Nigerian farmers use coal production as a lifeline to make money and feed their families. At the same time, charcoal mills travel the countryside in family groups, charring all the trees they can cut down. The consequences are hair-raising. Nigeria lost 36 percent of its forests between 1990 and 2005. At present, twelve percent of the country is still covered with forest – but charcoal production continues to rise, eating up 350,000 hectares of fertile land here every year. According to the UN, charcoal production is one of the main causes of deforestation in Africa, which in turn is closely linked to massive deterioration in soil quality and a growing risk of crop failure. But African legislation has been slow to respond to the problem. The coal business is highly lucrative business, and rakes in some 7.4 billion US Dollars a year. According to recent estimates, the current illegal trade in charcoal is worth almost three times as much as the trade in illegal drugs.
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put this on South Korea hardly anyone knows how non-transparent this market really is for that one ton of charcoal requires five to ten tons of wood this has an enormous impact on the environment done the way the wood comes from there's often terrible human rights abuses there's poverty this deforestation is desertification in places of Africa alas no go it's completely unacceptable that tropical rainforests are being destroyed just to produce cheap charcoal this shouldn't be happening it's madness Nigeria with 186 million inhabitants it's the most populated country in Africa this is where most of the charcoal imported to the EU comes from it's a huge business not only in Nigeria Paraguay in South America is another big global player according to the UN over half the trees cut down worldwide are burned to produce charcoal with severe effects to the climate Nigerian merchants praised the high quality of charcoal derived from tropical wood it's particularly durable and its embers last much longer but these traders don't have to certify where they get their charcoal the wood could be from one of the few sustainable plantations for tropical timber in Africa or it could have been illegally logged in the rainforests Kingsley a canoe specializes in export ready to be filled with choco merchants who want to import tropical timber to the EU have to certify its origins the process is strictly regulated but those guidelines don't apply to charcoal 88% of the charcoal used in Germany is imported Nigeria alone supplies 31,000 tonnes a year but most consumers have no idea what they are using to grill their sausages these goes to Germany in part on packs the Germany when it'll be forming into yeah yeah aggressive Jeremy hey fill up one container all these feel about 40 feet container charcoal from Nigeria made in Germany made possible because there are no restrictions on importing charcoal made from tropical timber to the EU the spoke Agard and trade fair in Cologne this is where the outdoor grilling industry comes together many distributors can't see any problem with charcoal from the tropics the trade association however would rather not comment yeah Olivier what's her from France has been fighting against imported tropical charcoal for years he works for the NGO the forest trust or TFT they want charcoal to be processed only from sustainably cultivated forests and for consumers to easily see if they're buying charcoal from native or illegally logged tropical wood there is no transparency to tell what is the real prediction because some importers pretend to be producing but we are producing are not there we can create a European working group on that part because if we don't do that it will not be clear so for the crystal it is actor Bob Dora Mae MC the detector for a cast there are distributors who keep importing but the market will force their hand the moment we changed the market everyone who wants to carry on as usual will be left in other choice in France TFT has already managed to change the market most buyers for large retail chains have come to reject charcoal from tropical forests Peola VA is meeting a belgian who imports african charcoal the man is convinced of his products quality and even has a seal to prove it's been produced responsibly he can't understand the concern about tropically sourced charcoal you have to realize that there are also sustainably managed tropical forests I don't see why these products should be banned you can't forget that the charcoal market is helping feed thousands of people in Africa we'd be making things too easy on ourselves if we suddenly decided to just ban everything sourced from Nigeria we need to actively deal with the problem in Nigeria it's true that many people depend on the charcoal business in places where qualified jobs are hard to come by there they often live in the humblest conditions people like Kobi he and his family make charcoal for a living they travel across the country as nomads and log trees wherever they can in the wild not unsustainable estates the process is simple enough the wood is stacked covered with dirt and then lit these so-called kilns seal off most oxygen allowing the wood to burn down slowly in about 11 days it's reduced to charcoal 500 cuts that are strong it can produce about 200 dogs within a month we don't enjoy the work to BCCI we don't enjoy the work is a hard job it's a hard labor most times when you come back you're retired and that's why most of us use drugs after coming back from the work you know that to regain your strength for one ton of charcoal the workers need up to 10 tons of wood most of the energy escapes as excess heat exhaust leaks from the piles and the surrounding soil is contaminated with toxins deforestation is a huge problem in Nigeria a study by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization found that four hundred and ten thousand hectares of forest were cut down each year not only does that have a major impact on the climate it also leads to erosion and the forming of new deserts but the forests aren't being destroyed just to make charcoal they're also being cleared for farmland and yet 87% of all trees logged in Nigeria are used for firewood or charcoal Harry Hoffman is a scientist for years he's been concerned about the charcoal production in Africa to some it's the only way they can make a living during the dry season or towards the end of the dry season before they return to their fields there's nothing left to pay for school so they go to the forest and cut down trees to make charcoal they can sell on the street corner even if it is illegal when they do they risk their fields drawing up back to Germany Johannes sannen is a wood specialist at the World Wildlife Fund today he's brought bags of charcoal to the TuneIn Institute in Hamburg he too wants trade restrictions for charcoal and he's backing up his arguments with facts if it were up to him importing illegal timber into the EU would be banned as with the charcoal produced from it so gay I'd call and his colleagues want to see just how much wood from tropical forests these bags contain there's a lot of pressure from consumers not just for these products coal in particular is almost a cultural asset for Germans finding a legal wood in their charcoal would leave a bad taste in their mouths businesses can't afford that a few months or years ago this product wouldn't have gained such broad attention some consolation forum to date importers don't need to show that the wood for their charcoal was legally sourced and any product information on the bag doesn't show the country of origin either for kaha is one of Germany's leading specialists in determining wood he can't say where the charcoal is from but he can discern which type of wood it was made from even if it isn't printed on the bag he instantly recognizes some native tree species before before I put it under the microscope I do a pre examination sometimes I use a magnifying glass to determine what type we're dealing with the Scottish moss I've already dug a bit out from the bottom of the bag and as you can see what makes charcoal so special is that unlike wood it's brittle when I break it up it creates these clean edges I can look at those with my magnifying glass here for example we have an ash tree this bag doesn't contain any tropical timber but other bags do women in the tungsten encircles kulikov do you swing by the nearest gas station to pick up a bag of charcoal of course you have no idea how far it has traveled already and what ecological footprint it has left behind the entire forests are being cut down in countries like Nigeria or in Eastern Europe sometimes even protected forests are being plundered when that has an immense impact on the ecosystem or biodiversity and on the climate overall we need to act here we have briquettes here we have a product that we're looking at yes WWF this is pure charcoal here we have a different product with the slogan for the sake of the environment that's the co2 neutral Foca hog inspects 20 bags of charcoal that johannes sanan had bought in various hardware and grocery stores in many cases it's evident the wood isn't native before I've had a look at the man to the microscope I can't say for sure these samples are definitely of tropical origin it's not that simple but I can say that the ones I've looked at are definitely not from regular wood so we know for certain that it isn't oak ash Elm birch or Beach compressed briquettes are especially hard to examine they consist mostly of coal dust and starch but even here the expert is able to find traces of wood amid totem identifying wood species is called wood Anatomy we identify types of word based on their anatomical structure people have been examining plant structures for two or three hundred years what's important is to have reference material the island that's why the TuneIn Institute of wood Research stores thousands of samples of various trees but instructor mahes illness structural features we can see here we can definitely say this wood is not from a temperate or even boreal region that a boy we are in swinish dumps that means this charcoal was definitely tropically sourced eight of the 20 bags they examined did contain wood from rainforests that amounts to 40% of their samples five bags even contained red list species of endangered or restricted wood the findings are upsetting for Johannes Sonnen of the World Wildlife Fund not the omission Sophie this has been a topic for so many years us to find such catastrophic results here in Germany with shopkins it can't go on like this many distributors won't take responsibility for their products origin sustainable cultivation Environmental Protection labor laws none of it matters production costs are much much lower than operating a Congaree here in Germany so that makes it attractive transporting it over the ocean from Nigeria to Germany or Europe is a fairly small portion of the total cost most Germans have no idea that their charcoal is sometimes produced with people's bare hands and Kobe would never have guessed that his charcoal was used to grilled German sausages many industry make use of charcoal apart from hookahs there are some industry to them make use of it like those people that have a poultry farm they also make use of charcoal also people take it from different industry but I don't know what they use it for but we just produce it for them and they take it to town Kobe and his workers get $3 for each bag of charcoal even in Nigeria that's not a lot of money but the supply chain in Africa is long transporters sorters distributors everyone wants to turn a profit the jobs are highly sought after most jobs provided are at the urban level at a city sentence what charcoal the Chuckle does is one of the few jobs and actually brings jobs down to the rural areas to the local women through people who order otherwise they have no education I have nothing to fall back to they have nothing for them here is a lifesaver there's really no major industry here they cry they call me the same boss bring bring charcoal let us walk we need to work because there's no other thing and this sector is growing one study estimates the market could be worth up to 12 billion dollars by 2030 with 12 million people working in it that's a shadow market most of the money made in that sector will stay with the powerful distributors the money isn't made in Nigeria it's made in Europe over here we have the products we're ready to ship to places like Poland this is ready whenever the container comes in we ship it out in 2015 alone exports from Nigeria to Poland grew by 51% and buyers from Africa most times they repackage and then sell to other European countries here supalen is a very big hope they buy a lot of Nigerian markets the charcoal is shipped to Europe in containers the TFT organisation has seen to it that less Nigerian charcoal is imported to France but exports to Poland are on the rise here conservationists say charcoal from tropical wood is simply repackaged and distributed throughout Europe peer only ba what turn continues his search in Poland we're here to see if this factory really does produce charcoal we want to know if all the wood was locally sourced and processed on our previous visits to Poland we learned that some only pretend to be producers actually import charcoal repackage it and then sell it and then they claim it was produced here in their factory today prae and his colleagues are visiting europe's largest charcoal producer the company greece gand has three factories that produce fifteen percent of all the charcoal consumed eu-wide the managing director is guiding a tour through the facilities the conservationists want to find out if all the charcoal is truly produced here in Poland or if it's mixed with charcoal from tropical woods for kog the most important clue is a look in the business books he's interested in the amounts of charcoal and wood coming and going so far he's been acting on behalf of French chains that have committed themselves to offer only sustainable charcoal the forest trust checks that no tropical wood finds its way into the bags their biggest difficulty is figuring out how many tons of wood the company needs to produce one ton of charcoal based on the method employed the amounts can vary greatly now it's ple B's job to estimate how efficiently the plant works and compare the wood purchases with the charcoal sales competition in this sector is fierce as is the temptation to cheat with illegal African charcoal its countries keep production costs down and companies managed to buy raw material from dubious sources who presume they can earn higher profit margins on import and trade important hunter if a demon while importers pay very little for their raw material European producers must dig deep into their pockets for the wood producers traders everyone looks to cut corners to make sure that they can meet those price reductions that are forced onto them by the market by consumers in fact and unfortunately that often leads to the cheapest wood the illegal wood getting into the system the largest producer in Europe states that its wood is purchased from native forests that's a big cost factor there's lots of wood what's important is that the wood is actually from this region cultivated sustainably and it's so that it can be labeled as responsibly produced charcoal shovel boss boss native wood from responsible forestry that means the amount of wood that can be logged is limited to how much can regrow european foresters have known this principle for centuries that's how they responded to the massive clearing of forests in the early 18th century they call it sustainability to make sure the charcoal is as sustainable as the managing director said it was their next appointment is with the Forester again ple bhx the production the books and the woods origins he makes sure the forests are large enough to supply the amount of wood the manufacturer needs he takes careful note of the numbers of hectares the age of the trees and the amount of wood extracted cut down from the forest the plant or he hasn't found a bug in the system yet but he keeps asking the manufacturers Quality Manager and the Forester both take all his questions unlike in Africa the amount of woodland in the EU is growing in Poland it went from eight point eight million hectares in 1990 to nine point four million hectares in 2015 that only works with truly sustainable methods PL on TV what time is very pleased with what he's seen here so I'm prone to stone for it's just for these don't count they have a forest cultivation plan set up for ten years with a registry for each logging so that way they know exactly how much wood they're allowed to take from each plot this means traceability right back to where it was felled and we know they've been cultivating sustainably for years this wood here for example is 60 years old biomes acidity working space on top would four guilt-free charcoal thanks to traditional forestry guidelines modern technology and careful documentation this forest will continue supplying as much wood as it does today for centuries to come this naturalness Fidelma there's plenty of wood right here in Poland you don't need to buy it in Africa that add there's enough deciduous trees to cover the demand for charcoal Pia Olivier hopes to someday find charcoal in supermarkets that is only produced from sustainable wood but in Europe there aren't many sustainable manufacturers like this one in Poland and companies that produce charcoal and electricity are the exception to the rule and so he sets off for France one of the most modern charcoal factories in the world is here in the Champagne region the region is also home to vast deciduous forests and yet France still imports most of its charcoal this manufacturer wants to prove that producing charcoal in France can in fact be profitable what it lacks in size the business makes up for in innovation the French government supports it with subsidies the managing directors were even invited to the world climate conference in Bonn in 2017 to talk about eco-friendly charcoal production at home and in developing countries here comes from the forest buggies so son thanks to modern technology they only need 2 and a half tons of wood for each ton of charcoal they produce that means they can preserve 40% of the wood in comparison the earth mounds in Africa only have an efficiency rate of about 10% meaning their kilns require four times the amount of wood the charcoal is dried in huge baskets with the excess heat given off during production here is proof that we're able to make renewable charcoal all it takes is sustainable forestry and today's technology using this method we can produce charcoal electricity and heat three products at once from one single resource that's what makes this product competitive and profitable in Europe this site provides 10,000 homes with steady electricity the tropical charcoal producers can only dream of having such a modern plant worldwide we're experiencing the deforestation of several million hectares each year that is so much in so relevant that it makes up about 15% of manmade carbon emissions consumed by Tate satellite images reveal that 30 percent of Africa's oldest national park has already been destroyed the national park is very old and has been particularly affected by people illegally extracting wood to produce charcoal the Virunga National Park lies in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo the charcoal produced here isn't exported 97% of the people in the region use it for cooking and heating the areas surrounding the National Park have already been cleared according to the World Wildlife Fund ninety percent of the trees felled here are used to produce charcoal four years ago this whole area was full of trees now four years later all the trees have been cut down and not only that even the roots have been pulled out of the ground the World Wildlife Fund foresters are shocked the demand for charcoal is so high in this region that even digging up and charring tree roots is worth the effort nearly three billion people on the planet cook with wood and it's not just cooking they use wood for heating – it's essential to them and there's no way of replacing it producing wood sustainably requires space space they don't have the population in Africa will quadruple by the end of the century capacity limits are often exceeded now one big problem is the lack of infrastructure only three percent of the people living in the huge city of Goma and its surrounding villages have access to electricity cooking with gas would be easier healthier and more eco-friendly but charcoal is often the only source of energy they have people need to be certain that they'll have gas when they need it otherwise they can't cook it's a crucial source of energy for many people and it will be for a long time to come the last 10 years have seen huge forest areas vanish the WWF workers are certain the ongoing political conflicts in the region are contributing to the deforestation here this all used to be forests monkeys lived here now there aren't any left to save the national park the WWF workers want to turn around their charcoal market and are reaching out to all parties involved even the transporters they ride their bikes 30 kilometers to the next city here they say it costs $20 and in Goma it costs $23 we asked them if they produced the charcoal themselves but they just buy it to resell it in Goma it's legit boo alle vongole mo the destruction of the V Rangga National Park is immense the region is one of the most densely populated in all of Africa the conflict in neighboring Rwanda have only made matters worse countless refugees are seeking shelter and using charcoal for cooking the World Wildlife Fund in Goma is very engaged in the topic of charcoal chili Lesage and his team hoped for lasting peace in order to save the national park since 1996 this region has gone through a lot of unrest before that there were the looting wars from 1992 onwards and then came the first liberation war in 1996 that forced many to flee all that had an impact on the environment in Goma the number of residents has nearly doubled in the last seven years especially due to the many refugees who have come only eleven kilometers separate the city from the national park so it's no wonder that 80% of the charcoal used here is illegally sourced from Virunga like in most places in Africa the charcoal business here is also a shadow market the dealers by their charcoal in villages and then sell it here the price range depends on how old the tree was that's used to make the charcoal charcoal from young trees costs 20 US dollars the older the tree the more energy it supplies and the higher the price nike lawyer can I be retailers prefer cheaper softer charcoal because they can sell it in small portions some households buy the higher quality tougher charcoal and I personally delivered to the wholesale dealers just as in Europe here too it makes a difference where the wood for charcoal is from but it's also just as important to reduce the charcoal consumption the men and women of Goma stove are contributing to just that with direction from the WWF they conducted several tests and studies that helped them develop a particularly energy-efficient oven it only uses half as much charcoal as a traditional oven under the metal plating is a clay core that is baked the first time the oven is used a la première the first juste should be for something that needs to be cooked for a long time that's the case for most things cooked regularly here such as beans zombie or corn fufu that long first use bakes the clay core the demand for efficient cooking is huge Goma stove has produced and sold more than 80 thousand ovens since 2009 they've even delivered their product to the capital Kinshasa we produce a lot we used to make seven ceramic inserts today now it's 30 35 even hundred fifty this customer just bought her second Goma stove the savings have made a noticeable difference in her household budget the oven manufacturers smart marketing water over straightaway Muscovy demonize some households were uncertain about how they would cut their coal consumption in half zowie ask them how much they used with their traditional stove they'd answer two bags so we told them to go and buy two bags and when they do we give them our stove as a credit and tell them to use it and pay us at the end of the month to use then by the end of the month they realize they still have one bag of charcoal left bread em what you know Gloria stuck it in my color one bag lasts a month each family can save one and a half tons of charcoal over the two-year life expectancy of the stove and it's affordable the cost can easily be paid off in a month at the end of the month families are left with more money with efficient cookers it's possible to drastically reduce per capita charcoal consumption sustainable charcoal production on the other hand is more difficult outside of the national park hardly any trees are left and inside armed rebel groups from Rwanda have a tight grip on charcoal production they wouldn't dream of giving up this critical source of income papow Houston lives in a small village on the edge of ruin ganash '''l park he still clearly remembers when the Rwandan rebels came into his village and turned everything upside down they invaded the park and cut down all the trees since then the environment has been out of balance we don't have any rivers or streams and then the dry periods have become longer well that's when we decided we need to plant trees and we started looking for partners who would help us Felicia she taught a part in a 2v2 stem as a companion a separation bosie palooka became their trusted world wildlife fund partner he's a forester and knows what it takes to create a plantation you need to keep a close eye on the seedlings LaPlante so they reproduce at the right time tree must be planted at the beginning of the rainy season if you miss your window even by just a few days your plantation might not survive the WWF support plantations across the region with their eco makalah project Busey knows the people here well and understands that close contact with local chieftains and mayor's is just as important as a tree nursery FASTA is also an advocate on the hills this will help us fight erosion water there flows down the slopes and destroys our fields it even tears houses down the advantages are already visible after just a few years the WWF was successful now 100 tree nurseries 13 thousand hectares of plantations and nine thousand farmers have joined the project Jeff village chief is also convinced of the advantages ever since the project began he's been working to persuade the six thousand seven hundred families in his tribe to plant trees in order to secure the villages future at the eco makalah plantations they taught us a different way to cut down trees and build kilns that way we can produce higher quality charcoal that we can sell in Goma for a higher price so we have charcoal we can cook with ourselves we can sound chunko and that will pay for our children's education and the medical treatment and also for food today he's showing others how to plant trees to protect the fertile soil from erosion and landslides in five years these little saplings have become fully grown trees perfect for producing charcoal when they're ready for harvesting they provide a clean legal alternative to trees from the National Park lafon so this we can save the Virunga National Park if we plant more trees and at the same time we reduce our consumption our use of charcoal do you it like oh so much improve methods for coal making have doubled the amount of charcoal we can produce combine that with our improved stoves and we're saving on both ends on the one hand we're improving charcoal yields while on the other we're using less charcoal so basically we're raising supply and lowering demand demand the charcoal makers have learned that drawing the wood for two months before charring it is more effective this dense pile will be covered with dirt later and set on fire ventilation shafts to light the pile and a chimney made of old barrels will double the amount of charcoal this kiln can produce in addition the quality will be much higher fifteen percent of the charcoal used in Goma is sourced from the WWF's eco Makana project the long-term goal is to raise that to 30 percent the farmers have already begun to notice positive effects on the environment the proposed ever since the project started we've noticed an upward trend for example the times for planting used to be messed up as we risked losing our crops thanks to the plantations we planted with the Eco McCullough project we've seen the ecosystem restoring we can now go back to planting based on the old calendar a donkey lucuma saw respectfully calendar paratha but 30% is all this plantation can cover anymore wouldn't leave enough room for farming the project has helped slow down the destruction of the National Park but it can't stop it altogether further solutions still need to be developed and new energy sources tapped into back to France the charcoal pioneers are working on making their method more attractive for developing countries lower wood requirements reliable electricity and quality charcoal together these three things might be able to save the Virunga National Park the charcoal visionaries and Pia LED owatta are convinced that all it would take is enough political will to reach a sustainable solution for africa's charcoal problem without the correct circumstances however they don't want to introduce their method no Graham Duplantis plantation programs are a necessary condition for setting up the factory like ours in Africa Mayor Victor for growing schedules supported by the government or local groups would make that absolutely possible one particular advantage is that they'd not only have charcoal but electricity – too many people in Africa charcoal is a necessary energy source in Europe it's central to the grill culture efficient production and sustainable forestry can make charcoal a renewable resource only the combined efforts of governments businesses and consumers can stop the destruction of our tropical forests you