About the Nakivale Biochar Project


OpenAir, Bionerg, and C-Capsule are partnering with Uganda’s Nakivale Refugee Settlement to pilot a new biochar monitoring and revenue model that aims to unlock income for subsistence farmers, improve soil productivity, and draw down carbon from the air.

  • The project objective is to enable farmers to gain access to and earn revenue from international carbon markets using a mobile-based biochar monitoring and verification technology and methodology.
  • Open-source designs will enable local manufacturing, maintenance and continuous improvement of small distributed biochar kilns anywhere in the world.
  • A growing practitioner network will allow implementing farmers to exchange best practices and continuously learn and improve methods through peer-to-peer exchange.

Mission History

This mission began in September 2022 following an introduction between OpenAir co-founder Chris Neidl @Neidl_c and Marius Ziganira, a Congolese refuge and agricultural engineer leading restorative agriculture initiatives at Nakivale. Marius was in the earliest stages of planning biochar production and training in the community

Mission Activities

  • Initiation Crowdfunding - Starting in Novermber 2022, this mission is leading a $10,000 funding raising campaign to fund the construction of 3 kontiki biochar kilns in Nakivale. These kilns will be outfitted with Bionerg monitoring devices in early 2023. Data reported will be used to certify carbon removals generated by the camp’s farmer participants, using C-Capsule’s methodology. The Nakivale settlement will receive the majority of the revenue earned through the sale of the credits on the voluntary carbon market in 2023.

  • Promotion - Following results from the initial 3 kiln pilot, OpenAir members will actively promote the application throughout Sub-Saharan Africa in rural farming communities, linking community leaders to Bionerg’s support community and facilitating knowledge exchange between Nakivale practitioners and new adopters. OpenAir will also work to raise-awareness of the pilot’s success with local African apex organizations that serve last mile farmers and rural financing institutions to help establish credit and technical support for future adopters at scale.

Mission Members

Mission Moderator - Chris Neidl @Neidl_c

Mission Overview

Biochar is a charcoal-like material that’s made by burning organic biomass from agricultural and forestry wastes in a process called pyrolysis. To the naked eye it’s unremarkable; but looks can be deceiving.

This incredibly versatile waste byproduct holds the potential to enhance depleted soils and increase agricultural productivity on the local level, while durably removing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help combat global climate change.

Within the context of the Global South, the potential benefits of biochar for smallholding subsistence farmers are enormous. And this promise, if realized on a large scale, can lock down billions of tonnes of CO2 in the coming decades. Once established, local biochar production can create significant and truly sustainable livelihood benefits to help mitigate the economic insecurities and resource constraints that define the lives of subsistence farmers.

And nearly all of the core elements needed to make biochar happen - from biochar kiln manufacturing, to training, production and application - can be achieved within local rural communities. Further, under the right conditions, these practices have the potential to spread and self-replicate, peer-to-peer, through local, regional, national and even global networks.


But needless to say, access to capital is a critical barrier to making this possibility a reality. To move forward, farmers need access to funds to build and purchase biochar kilns, and greater revenue certainty to minimize economic risks.

As international carbon markets grow and increasingly center on durable carbon removals as a core product, they offer a potential pathway beyond this constraint. And carbon removal credits from biochar, backed by sophisticated verification methodologies, are already well established on leading marketplaces.

However conventional certification programs for biochar - upon which participation in carbon markets depends - are not optimally structured for smallscale biochar producers operating on a small scale with very little capital. In short, certification is very expensive and involves a complex process requiring significant capacity. This puts the opportunity out of reach for billions of potential biochar leaders in the global south.


To overcome this barrier and open up the biochar opportunity for millions of smallscale farmers in Africa and Asia, Bionerg has paired an open source kon-tiki biochar kiln design, with an integrated mobile-based monitoring solution that capturers and reports biochar production data in real time. In partnership with C-Capsule, a carbon removal certification platform, Bionerg has developed an MRV methodology for smallscale biochar production using this technology combination.

In combination, these innovations in monitoring and methodology, can be the key that allows distributed, low income rural farmers to directly gain carbon revenues for biochar production. Such a link would creates a strong incentive for adoption, and could rapidly accelerate and expand biochar implementation. Further, if it is clearly established that distributed, rural biochar can generate consistent revenue, both conventional financing from cooperatives and rural lenders, as well as peer-to-peer financing via global lending platforms, could quickly follow, making this solutions truly scalable.


  • Webinar: Linking Refugee Farmers to Carbon Revenues Through Mobile-Based MRV - Nov 2022.