Africa is the region of the world where wood fuel plays its most critical role. The dependence on wood as a source of energy in the subregions of tropical Africa ranges between 61 and 82 percent of total primary energy consumption. Compared to other regions, Africa has by far the highest per capita consumption of wood fuel, which covers between 90 and 98 percent of household energy needs.
The demand for energy is rapidly increasing, but wood resources are finite. What was once regarded as a family business, i.e. the free gathering of fuelwood for daily needs - has rapidly become a major policy issue with far-reaching ramifications on vital social, economic and environmental sectors. Satisfying current and future wood-energy demand requires sound planning of the wood-energy sector and careful management of the resources in a perspective of economic and environmental sustainability. This quest for good management relies on the availability of high-quality, relevant and recent data.
The challenge is great. Wood energy planning requires the concomitant availability of a wide variety of information from many different disciplines, but the responsible institutions are chronically handicapped by poor human and financial resources and usually occupy a marginal role in the national planning context. Even basic data, such as national wood-fuel consumption statistics, may be missing or unreliable. Often, high discrepancies among independent estimates illustrate the low consistency and unreliability of data sources, with obvious negative consequences for the identification of priorities and definition of policies.
FAO's current activities on wood energy in Africa are mainly supported by two regional projects funded by the European Commission. These projects are primarily a response to strong and insisting requests from the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) during its tenth session in 1995 in Sanbonani, South Africa, and its eleventh session in 1998 in Dakar, Senegal. The AFWC solicited international support to improve the necessary forestry information base for sound policy and sector planning, and to help strengthen data collection methodologies.
The first project on Data collection and analysis for sustainable forest management in ACP countries - Linking national and international efforts covered the period 1998-2000 and was carried out on five key topics: Forest Resources, Forest Plantations, Trees Outside the Forests, Wood Products (mainly Wood Energy) and Non-Wood Forest Products.
The second project, entitled Sustainable forest management in African ACP countries (GCP/RAF/354/EC), will cover the period 2000-2002. Within the framework of the FAO-EC Partnership Programme, this project has the overall objective of assisting national forestry administrations in African ACP countries to reform and focus policies and institutions to support the achievement of sustainable forest management. The project has drawn its justifications from FAO's assessments of national forest programmes and many forestry policies currently being implemented throughout Africa, which highlighted, among other shortcomings:
insignificant contribution of forestry to sustainable development;
∑ the low priority generally accorded to the sector;
∑ policy and institutional deficiencies;
∑ widespread deforestation and land degradation;
∑ impact on rural people's livelihood.
The scope of the programme is to assist national forestry administrations to reform and focus policies and institutions to support the achievement of sustainable forest management, with the following main objectives:
areas in current policies and institutions which do not currently support the
overall goal of sustainable forest management;
∑ reform national forestry and other policies and legislation in such a way that they are more supportive to the achievement of sustainable forest management;
∑ improve the capacity of national forestry administrations to plan more effectively and influence the development of the forestry sector within the context
of sustainable development.
The project focuses on six interrelated priority components:
(i) implementation of national forestry
(ii) fiscal policy reform;
(iii) forest harvesting practices;
(iv) non-wood forest products;
(v) wood-energy planning and policy development (WEPP);
(vi) strengthening forestry research capacity
The project uses data, information and contacts established in the ACP countries in the course of the first EC-FAO partnership project.
The overall objective of the Wood-Energy Planning and Policy (WEPP) component is to strengthen wood-energy planning and policy development throughout the whole African ACP region.
The purpose of this component will be to contribute to sustainable forest management by building capacity in African ACP countries to collect and better analyse wood-energy data and, from this, develop more effective wood energy plans and policies. Capacity will be developed by formulating and promoting techniques for wood-fuel data collection and analysis, planning and policy development. The component will also assist in the establishment of networks for regional collaboration and information exchange.
The immediate component beneficiaries will be government and non-governmental institutions involved in the wood-energy sector in the four chosen case study countries. Other beneficiaries will be similar institutions in other African ACP countries taking part in the workshops, pilot studies and other project activities. FAO and EC will benefit more generally by obtaining improved information on wood energy (which, since the Kyoto Protocol, is becoming an increasingly important topic) for inclusion in statistical publications, for the execution of regional and subregional outlook studies and for discussion in international forums (e.g. IFF, IPCC, CSD).
WEPP strategy of actions:
a) The first phase will be devoted to enhancing wood-energy information systems within project member countries (current phase); and
b) The second phase will focus on promotion of planning sustainable, efficient and cost-effective modern energy systems.
In the first phase of this component, emphasis is on enhancing wood-energy information systems within the Member Countries covered by the project, and the Regional Workshop in Nairobi represents a major activity to that end.
This meeting brought together national, regional and international wood-energy experts from English-speaking African countries (Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sudan and Uganda) and from regional and international institutions (African Academy of Sciences, World Bank-RPTES project, SADC Forestry Sector Technical Coordination Unit, CIRAD-ForÍt; the regional FAO Project AFRICOVER, Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare, UNEP and FAO), to:
the WEPP component to the main national focal points;
∑ carry out a diagnostic of national capabilities for the collection, presentation and dissemination of wood-fuel and wood-energy statistical data and information, including the review of availability, accuracy and completeness of wood-energy data and national capacities to obtain it;
∑ present the main results of the activities already carried out within the framework of the project and other relevant regional initiatives;
∑ discuss the main activities to be undertaken.
Among the activities presented, the most relevant ones in relation to the main theme of the meeting were :
∑ the regional study The role of wood energy in Africa;
∑ the country reports on wood energy produced under TCDC arrangements;
∑ the relation between wood-energy data from national and international databases;
∑ the Unified Wood Energy Terminology (UWET) developed by the FAO Wood Energy Programme.