AfriCart – a handcart for Africa

ED302 – design & technology

02.4 Research – Sustainability

“We must all ensure that the wood we buy comes from forests that are well managed.”

Dr Alan Knight OBE, former Head of Sustainability for B&Q


One of the problems of using locally occurring indigenous timbers is that they are not harvested on a sustainable basis whereas wood from European sources is. Here in Europe there is an increasing demand for timber to be purchased from independently certified legal and sustainable sources. Local authorities, timber merchants and wood packaging manufacturers are being encouraged to ensure that all timber supplied is from legal and sustainable sources. Credible proof is required that the wood in the end product can be guaranteed to come from the source claimed and not only does the forest need to be certified as a sustainable source, but all along the supply chain to the end product. If this happens the final article can carry the stamp of accreditation from a recognised authority – this is known as chain of custody. To achieve this, timber and wood packaging suppliers can be independently assessed by either of the two leading European bodies FSC or PEFC.

In general: wood from trees native to Europe, such as pine, oak, beech and birch, pose lower environment risks than those from tropical and subtropical trees such as mahogany, teak, rosewood and ebony. So if these woods are grown as cash crops in SSA then it is pertinent to use this non-indigenous wood.

Africa is the developing region where a lack of government capacity has mostly impeded the establishment of sustainable forest development programmes – however there are now many projects being funded by development and funding agencies, such as multilateral and bilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and public or private institutions who now provide backing for African forestry. A 1993 FAO survey examined the current state of and trends in international cooperation in forestry (FAO, 1995). Such a survey has been carried out every two years since 1987. Six countries (the United States, Germany, Japan, France, the United Kingdom account for 80 percent of overseas development aid.

International journal of forestry and forest industries – Vol. 48 – 1997/1 http://www.fao.org/docrep/w3247E/w3247e05.htm

Countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe have started sustainable aforestation programmes either as government or private initiatives, plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine. Although there are effects on biodiversity, these plantations do relieve the pressure on indigenous species.

In South Africa, the necessity to establish timber plantations of exotic species was recognised over a century ago. The first plantation was established in 1876. Early last century, South African researchers went overseas and found suitable Pinus, Eucalyptus, Acacia and Populus species to form the backbone of the South African forest industry for sustainable timber utilisation. Year by year the area under afforestation expanded until the present area of 1.42 million ha was reached.

Aforestation and Reforestation: http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/unilorin/vc-seminars/Afforestation%20and%20Reforestation.doc

This is an economic model that other African countries could follow given ODA support.

Commission on Sustainable Development:http://appablog.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/commission-on-sustainable-development-considers-how-to-help-africa-better-manage-natural-resources-boost-agricultural-productivity-modernize-infrastructure/

So since pine is a non-indeginous species one can assume that any pallets constructed of this material will come from a sustainable European or African source.

However great our need to use recycled material, and recycled pallets in particular, there is also a need to also use locally “found” material: the arms of the “pushing” handle and the cross bars are a case in point. The nominal thickness of recycled pallets may also be to “thin” for our structural/load bearing purposes and so extra material may have to be brought in or we could “double up”. The pallet wood is perfect though for the bed of the cart and for extending the height of the sides if the load requires it.

Written by Mr. Elphick

May 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm

%d bloggers like this: