The socio-economic aspects of using wood fuels in cottage and village processing activities and rural industries have already partly been dealt with in the previous chapters and a brief summary only will be given in the following.
At the cottage and village level the fuelwood deficit will mostly strike women and the poorer people. More and more time must be spent on collecting fuel or on earning cash to pay for it and less energy is available for cooking and heating. Women and children, in some countries, may spend even 100 to 300 work days a year gathering fuelwood. A mother of four, in parts of Africa, has had, in her lifetime, to double the time she needs every day to hunt for fuelwood. Some Tanzanian women may spend up to 2 400 hours each year collecting wood. In Mali, some fuelwood collecting trips require walking 15 km one way, exhausting mothers and risking their childrens' health (26). In urban areas, an average of 20 to 40 % of cash income must be set aside to buy wood or charcoal, and in the rural processing activities 30 to 60 % of the product value often goes to the purchase of wood fuels. Illness can result if food is deliberately undercooked to conserve fuel, and, in general, the product quality will be lower with shortened processing time. The substitution of wood to other lower-grade fuels as agricultural residues may have a positive effect on the wood fuel supply, but on the other hand, it can be in severe conflict with alternative uses of the residues for agricultural purposes.
The economic viability of many small rural industries is threatened by shortage of wood fuels and an increase in wood fuel prices. The nature of many of these industries is such that they do not have the technical of financial resources needed to make effective switches to alternative fuels, or to improve fuel utilization. Larger industries in the more formal sector tend to have more room for manouevres, for example, the tea industries of Sri Lanka and Malawi are beginning to put in their own fuelwood plantations and the tobacco industries of Kenya and Malawi insist on farmers growing wood as well as tobacco. The increasing demand and availability near the demand centre can also cause major transport problems. For example, an increasing proportion of Nepal's road transport is used to move coal from India and wood from the Terai to the Kathmandu Valley and other centres, disrupting the transport of other goods, increasing the demand for imported trucks and petroleum fuels, and putting further stress on the already overloaded and deteriorated roads (19).
The importance of these rural industries using wood fuels to both the rural and the national economy is quite obvious, as they provide employment and income generating opportunities for a large number of people (see Chapter 2). As such, their survival and growth are crucial to any attempts to slow down the rate of urban migration caused by a low level of employment in agriculture, population growth and pressure on land. Without these industrial processing activities the rural economy would also stagnate and revert to a position close to that of a traditional subsistance economy, with barter transactions and little scope for surplus generation.