4. TRADE IN WOODFUEL
Trade in woodfuel is only done with a licence that authorises the holder to manufacture and transport woodfuel to any marketing point.
Charcoal is the main commercial woodfuel in Zambia because unlike firewood, which can easily be collected within certain vicinities, it fetches good market prices. Charcoal is also preferred with regard to the easiness with which it can be handled and the cleaner combustion experienced when burning the fuel. The major problem with charcoal, however, is in the way it is produced and the kind of losses incurred in its production. The earth kilns used are mostly 10% efficient which implies that in the process of producing charcoal from wood, 90% by weight is lost. From 100 tonnes of wood, therefore, one expects to get only about 10 tonnes of charcoal (Kapiyo, 1996).
However, there are localised sales of firewood in peri-urban and highly populated areas. In Lusaka, firewood is on high demand especially for illicit beer brewing and energy for water and cooking. This is because some people in the area can now no longer afford the high prices of charcoal, which is resulting from reduced supplies. Most people would therefore rather reserve charcoal for use only on pertinent and essential activities such as cooking and space heating during cold nights. Collection for firewood is thus putting pressure even on smaller dimension trees and this is beginning to have a negative effect on both the pricing and regeneration of surrounding forests.
Funerals in urban centres also consume a bigger tonnage of total firewood supply. The firewood is used in lighting and space warming for mourners and over the years, this has become a tradition that is widespread across the country. With the death rate ever on the upswing, we expect increased trade in firewood that would in most cases be imported from rural areas. With diminishing supplies within reach and increasing distances and transportation costs, prices and trade in firewood and charcoal will continue to increase. However, these two commodities will continue to be cheaper alternative energy sources because the devices used for their conversion to heat energy are still cheaper than the costs for installation and purchase of appliances for facilities such as electricity and biogas production for example. These analyses are based on empirical observations.
Other empirical observations done in Kasama by the Forestry Department (1999), have revealed that the brick making industry consumes large quantities of firewood which is either harvested illegally from Forest Reserves or by paying for licence fees at the Forestry Department offices. The firewood is mostly collected by individuals who are not involved in the brick making business - these then sell the firewood to the brick makers. The Forestry Department does not know the actual pricing levels since the people involved do their business illegally. However, a cord (3m3) of firewood under licence issued by the Forestry Department costs ZK5,400. The burnt bricks industry is offering a cheaper alternative construction material to cement blocks, but this is rather creating an imbalance in the consumption of firewood. As a result of this, many areas within the vicinities of the town centre are now devoid of trees. It was also found that small-scale bakeries consume a greater percentage of the charcoal and firewood offered for sale.
Households which use both woodfuel and electricity have been found to be more cost effective as they can switch from one energy source to another depending on income levels, type of food cooked, alternating costs of woodfuel and the purpose for which the energy is required (i.e. for lighting, heating, boiling water, etc.). The type of energy used also depends on the availability and cost of devices such as electric stoves, charcoal braziers, electric heaters and electronic devices such as TV and Cassette Recorders, etc.
Charcoal unlike firewood, is offered for sale in almost all corners of the country. Surveys conducted in the PFAP Provinces of Central, Copperbelt and Luapula revealed that trade in charcoal is a major livelihood system (Kalumiana, 1996).
4.1. Pricing Trends
Prices for charcoal and firewood vary from one place to another depending on local demand, availability of wood stocks, income levels of customers, availability of cheaper alternative energy sources and the income levels of the sellers. In Kitwe, one of the most populated cities in Zambia, a kiln of 12m3 can be sold for ZK200,000. 12m3 when translated into woodfuel cords gives 4 cords which under normal metric conversions are equivalent to between 6 and 12 tonnes depending on the wood species involved. Each cord, under normal kiln production, can produce 10 (25kg) bags of charcoal and the price of one 25kg bag in Kitwe would, therefore, by implication cost ZK5,000. A household of six (6) people will thus spend ZK30,000 for 6 (25kg) bags of charcoal consumed by such an average family per month (Nyakabau, 1997).
In Kasama, a town in the Northern Province of Zambia, prices for charcoal are in the range of ZK2,500 and ZK3,500 for a 25 kg bag which when extrapolated to monthly figures per household of six (6), gives between ZK15,000 and ZK21,000. This when added to the cost of firewood (at ZK180 per headload) which amounts to ZK1,800 (for 10 headloads consumed by a family of six per month), gives a total monthly expenditure on woodfuel of between ZK16,800 and ZK22,800. The prices for firewood are based on fees contained in the Forests Act Cap 199 of the Laws of Zambia and may not therefore reflect the true commodity market value as determined by the forces of demand and supply. The figures used in making these calculations are based on woodfuel entirely dependent households.
The total monthly expenditure on woodfuel differs from one household to another, depending on family size, fuel mix (use of more than one type of energy source) and monthly income levels of woodfuel dependent households.
A charcoal manufacturer producing 24m3 per month will, therefore, make about ZK400,000 and is expected to make a net profit of ZK356,800 after subtracting production costs (ZK43,200) calculated at ZK5,400 per cord. The net balance will further vary with transportation costs, which will also vary with distance between production areas and market outlets. However, traders using bicycles are expected to reap maximum profits because they usually offset transport costs.
The mini survey conducted in Kasama also showed that charcoal sales are done on a house to house basis because most of the charcoal offered for sale is obtained illegally and traders can not afford to fall into the drag net of the Forestry Department. The illegal trade is increasing due to the inadequate capacity of the Forestry Department to control exploitation.
Other pricing trends in specific areas of the country are as reflected in Kalumiana’s papers on woodfuel demand and supply in Central, Copperbelt, Luapula and Lusaka Provinces based on surveys done in 1996. These studies are analysed in the preceding subheads (3.1.1 to 3.1.4).