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FAO has assembled and published historical statistical data and other studies on fuelwood and charcoal in its Forest Products Yearbook. As part of its Wood Energy Programme, the Organization is continuously reviewing and improving its wood energy information system. Among other results, this has led to the adoption of a unified wood energy terminology covering the collection, storage, interpretation, analysis and presentation of data on the production, consumption and marketing of biomass-derived fuels.

In the light of studies, such as that on the role of wood energy in Latin America and others dealing with other regions and countries, existing data on wood-derived fuels have been systematically revised and improved. Analysis of this information has provided a clearer picture of the importance of wood-based energy in the forestry and energy sectors, and offers a diagnostic tool for national, regional and international information systems. These studies have also helped determine actions to overcome constraints in the principal wood energy databases.

The problems identified are many and varied. The absence of a guide and methodology causes difficulties and delays in verifying available data and in obtaining fresh data.

The process of collecting and verifying facts and figures has once again shown how costly, laborious and time-consuming surveys on the consumption and supply of biofuels can be. They also require properly trained and qualified personnel a scarce resource in most countries.

The guide recommends simple methods to verify existing data rapidly, to fill gaps in the information chain and to conduct more reliable surveys.

More and better data on biomass-derived fuels will help: (a) discern how, where, and how much woodfuel is used in different countries and regions; (b) illustrate how forests, woodlands and trees contribute to the energy sector; (c) assess the environmental impact of woodfuel production and utilization; (d) identify the principal problems affecting the formulation and adoption of appropriate wood energy policies; and (e) develop more sustainable bio-energy systems as a major component of forest development.

We are convinced that a more sustainable use of biofuels will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but will also contribute towards improving food supply and generating employment and income in developing countries. A reliable information and data system is the first step in this direction.

The financial support of the European Commission/FAO Partnership Programme on Sustainable Forest Management in defraying the cost of producing this guide is gratefully acknowledged.

Wulf Killmann
Forest Products Division
Forestry Department

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