ClimChar Zambia – Testing biochar-pigeon pea agroforestry businesses in Zambia

Small-scale farmers will be introduced to a new business concept, combining pigeon pea as a new cash crop, and the use of biochar as a combined climate mitigation and adaptation strategy

ClimChar Zambia – Testing biochar-pigeon pea agroforestry businesses in Zambia
Ref: NDF C96

Nordic Partner: Menon Economics AS

Local Partner: Conservation Farming Unit

Other Partners: NGI, NMBU
Total Project Cost: EUR 756,543
NCF Financing: EUR 498,611
Agreement Signed: 6 December 2018
Project type: Combination
Duration: 30 months



This project will test a new, green business concept in four locations in Zambia. Selected farmers will receive training in pigeon pea production, a relatively new crop in the Zambian context. The farmers will be given the opportunity to sell the pigeon pea to an exporter, while the biomass from the pigeon pea trees will be used to produce biochar that can be used as a soil amendment for maize production.

Storing stable and carbon-rich biochar in the soil is a technique that enables farmers to store significant amounts of carbon for long periods of time, thus contributing to climate change mitigation. Biochar also improves soil quality as it increases water- and nutrient retention and can lead to significant yield increases and reduced crop vulnerability to droughts.

The farmers will receive training to produce and apply the biochar to their maize fields, combined with conservation farming minimum tillage agricultural practices. Production of biochar is low cost, using a simple and recently developed, low-emission and safe, open flame kiln. Biochar can be used on the farmer's own maize fields to improve yields but can also be made into and sold as fuel briquettes. We will also explore the potential for voluntary carbon credits as a payment for the carbon storage provided by the farmers. The business concept will be tested through a randomized control trial approach, to obtain robust knowledge on developmental and environmental impacts.

Expected key results:

1. Increased farm incomes from pigeon pea production and potentially improved nutrition due to pigeon pea consumption
2. Improved maize yields and reduced vulnerability of maize yields to climate variability, resulting in reduced poverty and vulnerability to climate change
3. Increased soil carbon storage
4. Robust knowledge on the profitability and potential for scaling up biochar-pigeon pea businesses