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Community Groups Showing the Way Forward to Making Africa’s Reliance on Charcoal and Firewood More Sustainable



Community Groups Showing the Way Forward to Making Africa’s Reliance on Charcoal and Firewood More Sustainable

Belonging to the Association is a great benefit because it has reduced the stigma of being a charcoal producer and we are now recognized by our traditional leaders.

ACCRA, Ghana, November 26, 2021 / APO Group / – They all need energy to cook food for themselves and their families and to defend themselves from the cold. But in Africa, many millions of people only have access to this by using the natural environment (forests and wooded land) in the form of firewood and charcoal, rather than being able to access other renewable and affordable sources of energy such as solar and wind energy. . The greatest demand for charcoal comes from urban areas. The production and consumption of wood fuel presents a serious sustainability problem and, in the absence of alternative energy sources, prevents progress towards SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy. But attempts to regulate or even criminalize their production and trade must be guided by a deep understanding of complex economic, social, historical and gender issues or livelihoods can be destroyed.

Community producer groups are coming to the fore by demonstrating that there is a sustainable way forward, and it is important to ensure that their voices are heard and heard. That was a key objective of a conference co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which just ended in Kumasi, Ghana. In some rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, up to 60 percent of people are employed in charcoal production with few alternative employment options.

Grassroots groups give voice to forest users

“Producers highlighted the misconception that the use of firewood always leads to environmental degradation,” said Nora Berrahmouni, FAO Senior Forestry Officer and one of the organizers of the event. “They explained that by coming together as cooperatives, firewood producers and traders have been able to train themselves in more sustainable timber extraction, cutting one branch rather than the entire tree to allow it to grow back, or using improved charcoal ovens.”

Local cooperatives have also established tree nurseries for native species and have been educated on the management of invasives, including the use of invasive trees to meet part of the demand for firewood. The practice of using mixed cultivation on small farms, as well as mixing firewood with coconut and other shells, was also highlighted to reduce the amount of wood used and relieve pressure from the forests.

Zambian producers explained how they were encouraged to collaborate with the Farm and Forest Fund (FFF) and formed the Zambian National Forest Products Association (ZNFCA). Because producers are organized, they can collectively manage their tree resources and in the supermarket their certified sustainable charcoal is clearly recognizable to customers by its ‘green’ label.

Nkumbwa Mark Kahyata is the Vice President of the Choma Coal Association, where he and his wife Charity Mufwimpizi have produced coal for the past decade in the Masuku area. When they saw that the supply of trees was rapidly dwindling, they decided to stop cutting and were educated to take only selected branches rather than whole trees. They now also use an improved furnace that makes charcoal production more sustainable.

“Belonging to the Association is a great benefit because it has reduced the stigma of being a charcoal producer and we are now recognized by our traditional leaders,” he said. The grower group to which Nkumbwa and Charity belong has also established their own nursery with thriving seedlings to restore the forest.

FFF is active in 12 countries in Africa and other regions and is a partnership between FAO, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and AgriCord.

A complex challenge with many elements to join and solve

Sustainability is a critical challenge when two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa depend on fuelwood for cooking and the population is rapidly increasing and urbanizing. Africa is believed to have 1.1 billion people, with projections that it could rise to 2.7 billion people by 2060, many of whom, whether in cities or rural areas, will continue to need firewood. A traditional leader, speaking passionately at the recent conference in Ghana, explained that other communities come to his community lands because they have cut down many of their trees and been reprimanded. But, as he explained, my people also need firewood.

The search for sustainability, together

The underlying idea of ​​the conference was to pay attention to these and other voices by bringing together people from the widest possible range of different backgrounds and perspectives: fuelwood producers and traders, scientists and academics, the private sector, policy makers, civil society , government. departments from different sectors – to share their knowledge and ideas around a difficult and complex area. Having all stakeholders involved in a challenging area like this is crucial, especially when the issues are so complex and range from forestry issues to livelihoods, health, energy security, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrition, gender roles. , etc. health, justice, peace and security.

There are solutions

Solutions do exist, as demonstrated by researchers, policy makers and practitioners at the conference, but they need to be tied together to be effective. They range from improving forest management and restoration practices to improving efficiency in charcoal production, improving traceability throughout the value chain, adding value in terms of quality and also ensuring governance systems and the equitable distribution of benefits among all those involved in the value chain.

A mixed mix of sustainable energy sources is needed, and must be supported by capacity development programs and comprehensive national energy, forestry and trade policies and investments in which sustainable fuelwood production and consumption can play a role. with greater access to affordable sources of renewable and diversified energy. Livelihoods. Capacity development needs to be institutionalized. Only by reducing the pressure on forests and the people who depend on them can the sustainability equation be solved. Achieving sustainability in wood fuel value chains means achieving a better environment, prosperous livelihoods and people’s health.

Partnership is essential

The conference – Sustainable Value Chains of Wood as Fuel in Africa: Governance, Social, Economic and Ecological Dimensions – was organized by FAO, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), World Agroforestry (ICRAF), University of Science and Kwame Nkrumah Technology (KNUST), University of Copenhagen, International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), African Forest Policy and Policy (AFORPOLIS) and Tropenbos Ghana. The conference was supported by the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Ghana Forestry Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ghana Energy Commission.


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