Population growth, rapid urbanisation, and energy insecurity, are causing a soaring demand for wood fuel across Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that wood fuel is the main source of energy for cooking for over 60% of households in the region, contributing to the food security and nutritional needs of millions of people. But due to inadequate governance and the informal nature of the sector, it is currently a major cause of forest degradation and deforestation.
As different countries across the region share common challenges to make wood fuel more sustainable, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) hosted a regional exchange with representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, to discuss how to better incorporate wood fuel in energy and poverty reduction policies, and to encourage mutual learning from other countries’ domestic wood fuel strategies.
The event, which took place on February 26-27 in Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC), also served as a platform to discuss cross-border movements of charcoal across the region. Strictly enforced laws limiting charcoal production in some countries are driving new regional charcoal trade dynamics that are yet to be fully understood and call for increased regional cooperation.
“Regional poverty reduction strategies articulate a desire to dramatically reduce the contribution of biomass through fuel switching and efficiency improvements, but data suggests that these changes are not taking place at a pace and scale that will avert a biomass-dominated future,” said Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Hon. Jean Kapata. “The wood fuel sector meanwhile suffers at best from a lack of official support, and at worst marginalisation and even outright bans.”
“It is time that the dynamics of charcoal production and trade across these countries are better understood, as this is the first step to promote more sustainable value chains”, said Davison Gumbo, CIFOR scientist. “Cross-border movements are happening, despite bans and restrictions, but we need to quantify these flows to promote regional policies that adequately address these dynamics.”
“There is a huge need to strengthen effective cross-sectoral coordination and planning at national and subnational levels,” said Sophie Grouwels, Forest and Farm Facility/FAO Forestry Officer. “Involvement of related forest and farm producer organizations, such as charcoal producer associations, are essential to address their concerns and ensure the implementation of government policies for sustainable natural resource management and use at grassroots level.”
The outcomes of this event are also expected to feed the upcoming National Wood Fuel Indaba, to be held in Lusaka in March 2020.