Charcoal and the African household energy outlook
Africa in the 21st Century is the poorest, the most technologically backward, the most debt distressed, and the most marginalized region in the world. Apart from natural and man-made disasters, national economies have not performed well over the past decade and opportunities for employment and household-level income generation have diminished, hence the family savings to facilitate transition to and invest in modern energy means are minimal or non existent. Because of these reasons, at least 80% of the African population continues to depend on traditional biomass fuels, mainly charcoal and firewood for their energy needs. This situation is expected to remain unchanged for many decades to come. In particular, the demand for charcoal in most countries in the region continues to grow at high rates owing to the ever-increasing rural-urban migration. These trends coupled with inefficient charcoal production and consumption practices, and inaccessibility by most households to other reliable and affordable commercial energy forms indicates the continued and probably growing dependence on the already dwindling biomass resource for energy. Production of traditional fuels (mostly charcoal) is often insufficient to satisfy rising demand. The availability to the poorest communities is expected to decline, which will intensify environmental degradation in those communities. Charcoal production from natural forests is on the raise and it is the biggest forest resource use by african communities.
Charcoal and poverty
Charcoal is one of the more important commodities produced from natural forests or trees outside the forest by the rural poor across Africa and is largely used in urbanized areas to meet domestic energy needs. It is an important and simple means of earning cash income; in the production areas this income is more important than income from alternatives such as agriculture. As timber is readily available within and outside forests which only needs to be converted using simplest means and tools. It is mostly men who are involved in charcoal production. Income from charcoal is a guaranteed as there is are very demanding market and in many parts it has become a form of insurance against crop failures, emergency cash needs etc. Charcoal suits the living conditions of the urban poor, by providing a reliable, convenient and accessible source of energy for cooking at all times and at a stable cost in any required proportions. In addition, the charcoal trade provides income opportunities for many people in the urban areas, through small scale retail businesses which are mostly run by women. Most of Africa’s charcoal energy use is in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique alone, a study has shown that over $200 million of charcoal and firewood is sold in the town and cities where it is principally used for cooking. Extrapolated over Africa, the total amount of charcoal sold would run into a few billion dollars.
Charcoal and the environment
The bulk of charcoal wood is clear-cut from secondary, and in some cases, from primary forests. Emissions during charcoal production are significant compared to those from charcoal burning . Hence, charcoal leads to considerable deforestation, which is now one of the most pressing environmental problems faced by most African nations, reduction of natural resources on which the poor depend, and land degradation, contributing to the downward spiral of poverty. Deforestation has negative implications for the local environment (increased erosion) and the global environment (acceleration of climate change, threatened biodiversity). The reduction of forest cover also reduces the existing capacity to sequester carbon, and releases the already fixed carbon. Many African nations have had over three quarters of their forest cover depleted. Moreover, the global warming potential of current largely inefficient methods of charcoal production (pyrolysis) is considered to be higher than that of emissions during combustion.
Charcoal and health
There are significant health benefits associated with cleaner fuels due to reduced exposure to toxic indoor air pollutants . More than 1.6 million people (400,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa), mainly women and children, die prematurely each year from respiratory diseases caused by pollution from fires for cooking and heating homes. By 2030, smoke from such fires is estimated to cause 10 million premature deaths. The promotion of cleaner, more efficient technologies for charcoal production in Africa is thought to have the potential of saving millions of lives.
IFAD TAG 911: Assessing and Developing Replicable Methodologies and Approaches for Sustainable Charcoal Production for Livelihood Development, Rural Energy Security & Environmental Protection
Summary of results and recommendations
INBAR, together with the Institute of Agricultural Research of Mozambique (IIAM), has implemented the above project from 2007 - 2008. The project carried out charcoal supply chain studies in Ethiopia and Mozambique; an overview/State-of-the-Art study for selected countries in the SADC region; an international conference on charcoal and communities in Africa; and training events for multiplicators on a range of charcoal-related subjects incl. legal framework for natural resources exploitation, improved charcoal production technologies, market analysis & value chains, business management skills, and cooperatives and associations. Proceedings, technical and financial packages, Technical Advisory Notes (TANs), and case studies have been produced. Feedback from the training indicates a high level of relevance of and interest in the subjects. The conference produced relevant background information as well as project ideas and concept notes along with plans of action and policy recommendations.
Supply chain studies in Ethiopia and Mozambique
The Ethiopian study shows that charcoal production is a year round activity for rural farmers as a livelihood insurance. Current production systems for charcoal production are unsustainable, and the technology and incentives are insufficient. The present prohibitive policy and regulatory mechanisms only aggravate the situation and a comprehensive policy is needed. However, the technology for char-briquettes production from bamboo, Prosopis and agricultural residues such as chat residue cotton stalk, coffee husk is mature and production and marketing of agro-industrial waste charcoal briquettes could be a viable business opportunity.
According to the Mozambican study a large number of people are involved in the supply chain, however, the informal character of the business make it difficult to have accurate statistics of the sector and its real contribution to people’s livelihoods. A major reason for entering the business is the high unemployment rate. There is a good policy and legislative system providing directives that would enable the sustainability of the sector while ensuring the sector is contributing to poverty reduction in the country.
Major conference findings and recommendations
During the conference the participants presented and discussed in plenary various issues regarding charcoal production and use. As a majority of the participants were from Mozambique, a certain bias towards this country is reflected in the findings and recommendations. However, many findings are of a general nature:
- Unsustainable charcoal production and use techniques threaten the forest resources’ sustainability.
- Efficiency of most of the kilns used for charcoal production in African countries varies between 10 and 25%. Improved kilns with better efficiencies of around 25-32% still are hardly used because they are labour-intensive. The Casamance kiln is an example of these kilns because despite its efficiency, its adoption rates in Mozambique are still low. There are however good examples of efficient kilns in Africa and good experiences in usage of agriculture and forest wastes for charcoal production and these should be disseminated and shared among countries.
- There is little information in many countries regarding the charcoal situation to support decision making processes and the informal character of the sector makes it difficult to collect sector statistics. In Mozambique, the Woodfuel Integrated Supply/Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM) system may be used to aid decision making processes about where to implement different actions in the country based on the biomass energy supply demand balance.
- The absence of affordable alternative energies is the main cause for the current high consumption rates of charcoal.
- Despite the good legal framework in Mozambique, legislation implementation and enforcement is still deficient due to the Government’s lack of capacity.
- However, actual land ownership regulations do not stimulate resource conservation because there is little security over the resources by the users.
- Results of the Maputo charcoal supply chain study point to a net income of around 75 to 135 USD per month for each producer, which shows the contribution of this sector to rural poverty reduction. However, there is a growing trend of “invasion” of production areas by individuals that do not belong to the local communities.
- Species that are mainly used for charcoal production in the South of Mozambique are mopane (Colophosmermum mopane) and mondzo (Combretum sp.), the latter having recently been reclassified and can not therefore be used for charcoal production.
- Charcoal supply areas are becoming more distant from the consumption areas, for instance, charcoal is currently being brought to Maputo from Chicualacuala and Massangena, which are located over 400 km from Maputo city.
- There is also a growing trend of migration of producers from Maputo to Gaza Province because there is little left in Maputo. Additionally these producers have no culture of managing the forest resources that they use for charcoal production.
- The assumption by Provincial Services of Forest and Wildlife (SPFFB) that one cubic meter of woodfuel is equivalent to 1 bag of charcoal has been stimulating the use of bigger charcoal bags which leads to losses by both producers and the government. Moreover, this leads to charcoal prices that do not reflect the production costs.
- Charcoal production is one of the most polluting stages of the charcoal supply chain. Pollutants are likely to contribute to global warming as well as to cause health problems to the charcoal producers.
- Indoor charcoal usage is responsible for the production and inhalation of carbon monoxide which causes lung problems such as cancer and asthma. This amounts to 4% of the global burden of disease and leads in many cases to death. Women and children below 5 years of age are the most affected in developing countries.
- Currently there is little inter- and intra-institutional cooperation between the various stakeholders working on the biomass energy sector. This results in uncoordinated actions and the efforts made do not produce the desired effects.
- It is urgent to implement actions in Mozambique to avoid a situation where the country will be left with only a small portion of the forest cover such as the Ethiopian case where there is only 3% of forest cover remaining.
- It is necessary to improve the information registration system to include data on the quantities of charcoal produced and traded, number of stakeholders and their dependents, values involved and benefit sharing along the supply chain to aid the decision making processes. An option would be the implementation of a survey at a national level that would also systematize the information on production and usage technologies in the country and region.
- It is crucial to ensure there is updated information to feed the WISDOM system
- The introduction of affordable alternative energies is important to reduce the current consumption rates of charcoal in the urban and peri-urban areas
- It is necessary to identify alternatives to ensure that incomes generated at the rural level remain there to develop the area.
- It is important to review the actual exploitation fees to value the resources and think of a different system for applying the fees instead of the price/cbm or bag. An alternative would be to charge fees per weight.
- Promote the production of charcoal using agriculture and forest wastes in the country.
- Ensure the use of sustainable production methods. An option could be to increase the prices of the licenses.
- Promote concessions for biomass energy for both private entities and communities.
- Ensure more involvement of the local communities in the forest resources management through producers’ associations or local management committees to improve the law enforcement system.
- It is important to improve the coordination between the various stakeholders involved in the biomass energy sector. The establishment of a government institution dealing with the biomass energy could be part of the solution.
- It is necessary to ensure the participation of all stakeholders in the elaboration of the New and Renewable Energies Policy that is currently being developed in Mozambique.
The following recommendations and project ideas were produced by the thematic working groups:
- Government should develop policies for protection and development of the charcoal sector;
- Government should control charcoal prices;
- Government should subsidize the acquisition of improved kilns;
- Government should be involved in the dissemination of new technologies;
- Government should organize fairs for charcoal sales where the improved kilns can be shown and charcoal production technologies can be demonstrated;
- Government should disseminate the production of “poupa lenha” (mud) stoves to reduce charcoal consumption;
- Government should invest in micro-credit banks in the communities to help the producers;
- Communities should establish demonstration sites for sustainable forest management;
- Involvement of communities in the discussion of legislation pertaining to the conservation of forest resources.
Proposed project: Piloting of charcoal production systems using improved production technologies
Environment and health
- Biomass should be a priority for the renewable energies’ policy;
- Ensure the sustainable supply of woodfuel energy;
- Ensure coherence in definitions of biomass policies;
- Government should set up policies to incentivize/promote the use of alternative energies;
- Law enforcement should be improved.
Proposed projects: - Reforestation for firewood and charcoal production - Production of improved kilns and stoves - Establishment of carbon sequestration programmes
- Carry out a national survey on woodfuel in the country;
- Development of a policy and strategy that will specifically address the biomass energy issues;
- Creation of an inter-sector entity responsible for coordination and supervision of activities related to biomass energy, for which mandate and nature should be discussed and decided;
- Establish differential fees system for woodfuel licenses;
- Promote establishment of concessions for biomass energy.
Proposed projects: - Regional project for coordination, harmonization, exchange of information and inter-institutional support. - Establishment of a national database and implementation of a national survey on woodfuels to support/aid decision making processes - Biomass resources and governance
Information and technology transfer
- Evaluate the adoption level and impact of disseminated technologies;
- Organize producers associations and establish concessions for charcoal production;
- Train associations in business management to ensure their growth;
- Correct and adapt disseminated technologies;
- Define clear policy orientation lines for the biomass energy with emphasis on the rural areas.
Proposed project: Project for dissemination of improved charcoal production and usage technologies
Click here for the full Image:Proceedings charcoal conference.pdf, including overview, supply chain and case studies.
--Rkwaschik 07:17, 16 August 2006 (UTC)