Stories of Bamboo Charcoal ​

“Silalang Organic Agriculture Enterprise” is a group of people in Silalang community, Pua District, Nan Province, which was established by its local supports including several government and private organizations, local administrative offices, etc. Dated back to 1975, these people firstly gathered together for preserving Silalang forest whose area covers 10,125 rai. This is considered as the first community forest and the prototype of Thailand because the forest was saved since it was a bald mountain (a treeless mountain which looks like a bald person from a long distance). This community forest is recognized by domestic and international entities – it has been awarded by the Queen Sirikit in the King Rama IX (the Land Mother’s Fund), the Green Earth Foundation, Global Environment Fund, etc.

Apart from the above, this community forest also creates a lot of graduates from elementary level to doctoral level. There are a bunch of researches left as legacy for the next generation. Most importantly, this forest creates the 4 basic needs which are “food, medicine, cloth, shelter”, and good environment for the whole people, which is corresponding with the royal idea of the King Bhumibhol (King Rama IX). That being said, it requires 3 kinds of forest to get 4 benefits therefrom. The three kinds of forest include 1) useful forest, 2) food forest and 3) economic forest, and the four benefits include 1) edible source, 2) usable wood, 3) commercial wood and 4) global benefit that common people can take it as good environment.

Therefore, when this community has been preserving the forest for over 45 years or almost a century, they use a fertile source of bamboo which is growing in their community and dying without benefit as days go by. There is only a few of them from the community forest combined with those grown around such forest were taken for development into forms according to villagers’ great wisdom. That is to say, they process bamboo into furniture and charcoal, etc. However, to grow a bamboo is to solve the bald mountain problem, and to reduce the area for growing corn and cassava in the upstream area because it is a monoculture which produces high rate of toxic deteriorating soil. Dead soil causes landslide. For example, two years ago, landslide killed the whole family of eight at Ban Huay Kab in Bor Kluea Sub-district, Bor Kluea Nuer District, Nan Province. This is a result from having too much corn grown in the mountain above the village. The soil is degraded and loose originating this catastrophic event. Such incident happens very often in Nan Province when the rain season comes.

Needless to say, growing bamboo is the next best thing for those bald mountains because it is easy to grow, grows fast, low cost, firm root, good adhesive to land surface, easy to breed, easy to transport, better economic value than corn and cassava. Nevertheless, the problem is that those who grow it earn less than those who sell it. Farmers finally lack of motivation to grow it in the high mountain.

Bamboo growing in Silalang Sub-district has been done for over generations but the mountain bamboo has just been grown in March 2008 or 12 years ago. The reason why they grow it is to fix the bald mountain problem and reduce the area for growing corn and cassava under support from the government. However, it is not enough to fix household financial issue because it is barely possible to make it for a living. The thing is bamboo is very cheap – it could be badly processed into unwanted furniture by an unskilled craftsman. When it was processed into sticks, it eats up the capital because over 80% waste is left for nothing but being burnt. This also causes widespread smoke throughout the community. Eventually, the community stops making sticks as it causes abundantly environmental problem.

Villagers and the community then discussed about what to do. They chose to do something easy causing no big problem and anyone can do. The new normal bamboo charcoal and activated bamboo charcoal are what they called. With the local wisdom, bamboo charcoal production can be transformed into household products such as smell absorbant used for bathroom, bedroom, refrigerator, car, shoe, bag, closet, and electrostatic preventive charcoal for television, computer, mobile phone, etc.

However, the villagers would keep the volume of bamboo burning to minimal level as per the client’s order. It is very important to understand that the villager would burn it near the community forest or in the daytime only because during the daytime the forest would absorb carbon dioxide for its routine and release oxygen to our world. The smoke from forest burning is almost zero to none. Fortunately, the community’s burning process has been supported by organizations. They have been provided with a high quality smokeless incinerator and relevant knowledge from government and private sections, and educational institute.

The question concerning about if the incinerator is a part of global warming. The answer is no because the bamboo charcoal has high quality above the standard and contains to high level of iodine which creates porosity within the charcoal. These pore spaces are able to absorb carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. The more bamboo charcoal is kept, the more carbon dioxide is absorbed. Porosity of bamboo charcoal is much greater than other trees. However, bamboo charcoal’s absorbing feature is less than charcoal from coconut shells (high iodine and porosity). When comparing with lignite and nuclear ores used in production of biomass power, it is something totally different because lignite ore and nuclear ores are the main cause of global warming, not charcoal burning.  

Instruction to use charcoal for absorbing bad smell, humidity, undesired odor, etc.

1. For a bedroom of 4x5x3 meters, it should use 200 grams of charcoal putting/ hanging around 4 corners of the room, putting at air conditioner/ heater for several bags, or putting above the bed as seen appropriate since the bamboo charcoal creates no toxic or even small dust.

2. For a kitchen, it should use 200 grams of charcoal putting/ hanging around 4 corners of the room, putting at air conditioner/ heater for several bags, however, depending on the size of the room and how bad the smell is.

3. For a bathroom of 2x2x3 meters, it should use 200 grams of charcoal or 1-2 bags of charcoal hanging above the bathroom door and ventilator.

4. For a refrigerator, closet, it should use as per the size and condition, and should be put above the refrigerator to prevent electrostatics.

5. Putting in front of/ above/ behind television, computer, telephone as seen appropriate and according to the size of electric field.

6. For a car, it should be put/ hanged in the front/ back side of cabin, 2 back corners of the car as seen appropriate and as per the size of cabin.

7. If the charcoal is moist, it can be sundried. The package can be changed if it is torn.

8. It is suggested to change the charcoal and package if it is used for more than 1 year since the disease or unwanted substance might pile up in it. The charcoal can be steamed.

9. In some Asian countries (Japan), the bamboo charcoal is merely used in routine life. Other kinds of charcoal are not favorable for household use. The charcoal can be stuffed in the bamboo tube putting under the bed, stuffed in pillows or mattress, and kept in the house’s basement, etc.  

10. During the World War 2 where an atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima and Yamasaki in Japan, there was a charcoal making family hiding and sheltering in the huge bamboo charcoal incinerator. It appeared that the whole family was able to survive the toxic from an atomic bomb (PS. this is just a myth which have been told from generations).

11. The charcoal can deodorize cat litter or other dungs. The charcoal must be smashed or grinded and mixed with clean fine sand in the ratio of 20% of the sand weight. For example, if the sand is 10 kg., it should use the grinded charcoal of 2 kg., totaling 12 kg.. or the sand is 8 kg., it should be mixed with 2 kg. of grinded charcoal, totaling 10 kg. This should help relieve the bad smell.  

12. The bamboo charcoal can be mixed with other dungs such as cow dung, pig dung or chicken dung to fertilize plants because it can draw macronutrients and micronutrients in it before such nutrients are washed away without benefit. With the bamboo charcoal in it, it could collect nutrients for plant.

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