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Charcoal and firewood are the major fuel for urban areas in Mozambique. While about 70-80% of urban households rely on wood fuels, rural households rely entirely on these fuels for their domestic energy (Williams, 1993).

The charcoal is the most sought by urban households whereas firewood is the dominant form of fuel in rural areas. The use of charcoal by urban households is affected by the availability. During every rainy season, there is usually a shortage of charcoal in urban markets and invariably prices goes up. Like elsewhere in southern Africa the shortage of charcoal and hence price increase become acute between January and February when the rainfall is at peak.

With the exception of the cities like Maputo, Beira, Nampula, Chókwè, Xai-Xai, Chimoio, Quelimane and Tete, the urban and rural households generally provide wood for local domestic needs from their own resources. Hence, with this regard, woodfuels flow is normally limited to short distances.

The forestry sector currently provides formal and informal employment throughout the country. Fuelwood collectors and charcoal burners rely on these activities for their subsistence.

Pole consumption for building and fencing in the rural areas is estimated at 0.03 m3/person/year, which corresponds to a total of 317 thousand m3 in 12.981. So far, there is no any new study carried out which could up date the previous figures.

Annual consumption of fuelwood and small construction poles (3 to 12cm) in 1981 was estimated at 13.0 million m3.

Presently the most recently recorded information, excluding the subsistence fuelwood production, shows that the consumption of wood for fuel, charcoal and poles is around 80,000 stacked cubic metres (stcm), see the table bellow.

Table 9. Wood requirements in 1992



wood for charcoal

wood for poles

Number of issued licences




The authorised wood quantity (stacked c.m)




wood removals /under licence (m3)




Source: Forestry statistical annual Report DNFFB, 1992.

With regards to the marketed fuelwood production, consumed by part of the urban population and by some industries, and according to the last survey carried out in 1977, in Maputo, the average charcoal consumption is assumed to be 160 Kg /person /year.

With this average, total fuelwood produced in 1981 to meet charcoal needs, thus, amounted to 790 thousand m3 is the yearly fuelwood production for the industrial consumption purposes.


4.1. Charcoal Transporting

Charcoal and firewood is brought to urban areas by wholesalers, using their own or hired trucks and, in some cases trough railway (Fernandes, 1997). However, the state of these trucks is so deplorable that during the rainy season make charcoal production areas extremely difficult to access.

Contrary to the prevailing need to transport the bulk of agricultural and forest products into north-south direction, existing railway network extends from east to west with the original intention of serving neighbouring countries. However, coincidentally the major sources of woodfuel for Maputo, Beira and Nampula are located in the direction of the existing railways, so they can benefit from these relatively cheap ways of transport.

The Changalane and Marracuene regions, in Maputo Province and Limpopo’s Corridor in Gaza Province provide the bulk of the charcoal marketed in Maputo. Some producers arrange their own charcoal distribution and marketing in Maputo, organising transport and selling the charcoal directly to the retailer at the markets. Selling their load, never more than 50 sacks at a time, may take one or two days. By selling directly to retailers, producers from US$ 4.6 to 5.3 per sack. This easily covers their expenses for transport, which are round at US$ 1 per sack.

The production volume of most charcoal burners is so small that it does not make sense for them to organise distribution and marketing themselves. Thus, they sell their product to transporters, who also take care of the wholesaling. In 1990, the common price for a large sack of charcoal (ca. 45 kg) was US$ 0.42 to the transporter. Woodfuel transporters use lorries that can usually hold 70 - 100 sacks of charcoal. In general, trading in truckloads is impossible because assembling such quantities at one or two sites is not possible at present. Thus to get a full lorry load, transporters have to collect from a number of producers, which may take them the better part of a day.

It is not common for producers to store their charcoal for any length of time at the production site; the pressure to generate income forces them to sell their product immediately. After collection the transporters proceed to Maputo and sell the charcoal from US$ 4.2 to 5.7 per sack.

Charcoal transport can thus be a profitable business, with profits of between US$ 0.80 to 1.2 per sack being possible. Entrepreneurs who do not have their own transport often rent a lorry, which costs ca. US$ 12.72 per day including fuel for a trip, Changalane - Maputo


4.2. Charcoal Retailing


In the ESMAP (1987) study, it was concluded that charcoal retailing is carried out on a very small and inefficient scale. In 1985, the typical trader, usually a woman, handled only a few sacks each day, often only one. It was found to fluctuate between one sack per week and one sack per day. This decrease could be attributed to the increase in the number of charcoal sales points. Although the number of charcoal retailers at the 40 markets in Greater Maputo has remained fairly constant.

The markets in the Cement City are Xipamanine, Bazar Central, Mafalala, Janet, Malhangalene dey Povo, and Urbanizacao. Mercado Xipamanine is the largest charcoal market; here around 70 charcoal retailers are located. At the other markets, the number of retailers fluctuates between 15 and 35.

These official traders pay a daily rent of MZM 100 - 200 for their stand, not including the cost of guards. The number of charcoal dumba-nenges continues to grow, and they can now be found or virtually every street corner.

Charcoal is retailed in a variety of different quantities. Usually some type of tin or other standard container is used as measuring device. The most common quantity is a full milk tin, ca. 800 - 900 gm, but quantities offered range from small heaps of less than 250 gm to large 20 litres oil tins containing up to 10 kg of charcoal (Cajadas, 1992; BTG, 1990). Remarkably, the sales price per kg hardly differs with the quantity bought, and the samples taken by the consultants even suggest that it is cheaper to buy small quantities.

On a sack basis, the retail price was US$ 1.06 during the project period. Per sack the retailer’s margin is US$ 0.35 – 0.42, or - 67% of her purchase price. This margin has to cover all retailing costs, including rent of the "shop", labour costs night guards, etc. Due to the considerable number of days it take to sell just one sack (see above), the profit margin received per day may not exceed or not even reach US$ 0.07, i.e. the minimum urban daily wage.

For the period 1988 to 1992, the woodfuel prices have gone up substantially. However, for the same period, charcoal and firewood experienced different fate. Thus, the profit from the charcoal was 42% whilst for firewood was only about 5.8% (Cajadas, 1992).


4.3. Charcoal Distribution Volumes


Studies to analyse fuelwood and charcoal supplies to Maputo were carried out by DNFFB in 1985 and 1988 (Mansur and Karberg, 1986, Pereira, 1989). These revealed that, on average 130 (1985) and 100 (1988) lorries carrying woodfuels were entering Maputo though the E.N. 1 or E.N. 2 checkpoints daily. The vast majority of these carried fuelwood: already more than 90% in 1985, the percentage share of fuelwood further increased to 93% in 1988. Consequently, the share of charcoal in the supply dropped from 10% to a mere 7%. In addition to the number of vehicles also the average charcoal load per lorry dropped; from 274 kg/lorry in 1985 to 236 kg/lorry in 1988.

Based solely on the findings in the two survey periods, Mansur and Karlberg (1986), and Pereira (1989) extrapolated linearly to estimate annual woordfuel supply. Total woodfuel supply dropped from 156 200 t (1985) to 107 000 t (1988). Charcoal supply by 50% from 14 300 t to 7 200 t (see Table 5.1). Compared to the 1979 charcoal supply, estimated by Mabonga (1981) at 24 000 t, it would appear that supply dropped by 70% in less than a decade.

Table 10. Share of charcoal in woodfuel supply to Maputo


Woodfuel (t)

Fuelwood (t)

Charcoal (t)

Charcoal Share (vol.% mass %)


156 200

141 900

14 300

10,3 9,2


107 100

99 900

7 200

7,9 6,8

Source: DNFFB


Assuming that all fuelwood and charcoal transported is used for domestic cooking purposes, and that 70% of the Maputo population has to meet energy requirements with woodfuels only, using a minimum (on a net basis) of 650 MJ/capita/yr., these supplies equalled 56 % (1985) and 32 % of the minimum requirements.

The apparent discrepancy between woodfuel supplied and theoretical requirements may be attributed to one or more of the following factors:

The significant biomass available in Maputo itself and its environs, particularly the Green Belt. Thus, fuelwood may be collected rather than purchased in the market and would thus not be reported in surveys carried out on transport routes etc. It is not certain how significant a contribution this would make to the total supply.

Residues from sawmills and woodworking industries within Maputo may also be used as domestic fuel, and would not be picked up by surveys. Again, it is not certain how significant a supply these could represent.

The "minimum" requirements can be reduced by: changes in diet, resulting in meals requiring less cooking time; eating in larger groups, thus reducing the energy needed per capita; and preparing larger portions which are later eaten cold.

Furthermore, many people live under the poverty datum line, and may not be able to afford minimum food requirements. With no food available, the need for energy for cooking is reduced.

With no purchasing power to climb the energy ladder, people may descend the ladder and rely on combustible waste and agricultural residues as domestic energy sources.


No previous studies were found which deal with how people in Maputo really cope with the apparent enormous "gap" between woodfuel energy availability and requirements.

4.4. Historical Charcoal Price Development

In this section, an attempt is made to analyse charcoal price developments in the past decade (1980 - 1990). Conflicting assumptions regarding the charcoal content in a milk tin and sales price per milk tin in a given period complicate this analysis.

4.4.1. 1980 - 1985 Period

Between 1978 and early 1981 prices for woodfuels hardly increased; Mabonga (1981) re-prices between 3 and MZM 3.75 /kg charcoal for this period. In the second half of 1981 prices started to increase dramatically, and in the period until 1984 prices set by the free market increased ten-fold, compared to a three-fold increase in the consumer price index (CPI).

Official prices for kerosene, electricity and gas (per unit of useful energy) were a fraction of the prices of woodfuels. The commercial fuels, however, often unavailable in the market, forcing a large share of the population to rely on woodfuels. The increase in (potential) demand and reduced transport possibilities are commonly mentioned as major contributors to the woodfuel price increases.

The price development can be illustrated with official National Planning Commission (NPC) price data for the period mid from 1982 to mid-1984, as shown in the following table.

Table 11. Development of CPI and Fuel Prices, 1982-84 (MZM 1,000)



















Source: NPC (1985)

4.4.2. 1985 - 1990 Period

Woodfuel prices continued to rise in the second half of the 1980s, although not as rapidly as the CPI refers in table 11.

It can be seen from figures in Table 5.3 that charcoal retail prices increased more than producers’ and delivers costs in this period. The explanation for this is not at all clear.

Table 12. Maputo Charcoal Prices, 1985 - 1990


CPI Prices (MZM)

Charcoal Prices (MZM)






Consumer Price Index





Charcoal at production site, per sack





Charcoal from delivers , per sack





Charcoal, consumer price, per tin





Source: DNFFB and project data


4.5. Potential Charcoal Demand

Assuming that 70% of Maputo’s population of 1 million still depends on fuelwood and charcoal as domestic cooking fuels, and that woodfuel supply to Maputo has not increased since 1988, only 28% of the theoretical minimum energy requirements are currently covered. Supplies of woodfuels would thus have to increase almost four-fold to cover the minimum requirements.

Fuelwood and charcoal can contribute to closing the gap. However, it is difficult to say if this potential demand will ever become an actual demand. The depressed purchasing power of the low-income urban households is identified as the major reason for the drop in demand for woodfuels. As long as woodfuel prices remain high, effective demand will remain high, effective demand will remain significantly lower than potential demand. This results in the paradoxical situation that charcoal is theoretically in short supply but is available in abundance in the market place.

4.5.1. Export

The country traditionally does not export any kind of woodfuel.


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