In Zambia today, there exists an information gap on total woodfuel that are used in their various forms by different consumer groups. Black liquor in specific may not be attainable as a woodfuel in the near future unless Government can come up with a deliberate Policy to promote and support creation of pulp and paper mills which are conspicuously missing in the present industrial set-up.
Efforts in promoting usage of woodfuel such as chips, pellets and/or charcoal briquettes, sawdust and wood shavings from carpentry workshops, should be looked at seriously. However, this too may encounter some resistance from woodfuel end-users because of the ‘seemingly’ abundant solid volume of wood stocks that currently exist on the ground. Even in highly populated and thus high woodfuel consumption areas, residents still see a supply source in adjacent rural areas. Where the solid wood stocks may not exist, switching of and/or mixing of fuels may not be achieved due to the eminent lack of alternative technology and/or adequate income to fill the void created.
Current low trends of industrial and technological development entail that industrial consumption of woodfuel and thus woodfuel by-products such as sawdust, liquids like methanol, ethanol and pyrolitic oils and gases can not be achieved in adequate quantities. If efficiency of woodfuel utilisation is to be increased, there will be need to improve on technology of conversion of industrial wood by-products into a form that can retain the heat value and be made available at an affordable price to the various categories of consumers. There will also be need for Government Policy to be steered in this direction so that investors are attracted in the business.
Isolated cases of people using wood chips as fuelwood have been observed in specific localities where solid wood stocks are scarce, but these are insignificant when compounded to the national scale. Maybe what should be done is to institute technology that would form briquettes from sawmilling dust, which at the moment is causing serious disposal problems to mill operators across the country. Government should not just sit back and watch as the forest ecosystem is plundered, being valued only as a source of fertile soils and woodfuel energy; there should be a network of solution avenues established, both direct and indirect, which will sustain our forests as a foundation for wood products and services such as habitats for wildlife, catchment for headwaters, nutrient base for agricultural production and as a regulator of the atmospheric gases.
Current levels of energy demand can be satisfied and wherever possible enhanced, by ensuring sustainable regeneration of forests and also by providing alternatives to woodfuel such as biogas, solar power, hydro-electricity and petroleum products like kerosene. However, as stated in this paper, these are high capital investment ventures and will need total government commitment in terms of subsidies, tax alleviation, credits and any such measures that may assist both the urban and rural poor to access these alternative energy sources. There will also be need to promote efficient use of woodfuel by improving on conversion technologies and use of wood by-products. Careful analyses and detailed research into alternative energy sources, appropriate conversion technology and use of wood by-products would, therefore, be inevitable if the energy requirements of the country are to be met equitably and sustainably, without incapacitating the forest and other ecosystems (life-supporting systems) in the environment.