In Africa, woodfuel accounts for over 90 percent of total African wood consumption. In the countries of East Sahelian Africa, Central Africa and Tropical Southern Africa woodfuels, mainly fuelwood, contribute from 75 to 86 percent of total primary energy consumption (FAO 1999). Numerous studies have analyzed the wood energy sector in these countries and most of them have failed to provide a clear understanding of the different wood energy situations.
In the context of poverty and food security, energy issues are also particularly significant. Access to energy –or lack thereof—adds an essential dimension to the analysis of global poverty as it has a critical and immediate impact on the health and nutrition of poor rural households.
The scope of the study is to analyze wood energy and poverty situation in ten countries of East and Central Africa: Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
The study intends to contribute to the identification of areas where rural and suburban populations that depend primarily on woodfuels for their subsistence energy supply, are likely to suffer severe shortages, thus adding a new important dimension to the mapping of extreme poverty.
The definition of wood energy situations and priority areas was done applying the Woodfuel Integrated Supply/Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM) methodology with information derived from cartographic layers of the FAO’s Land Cover Classification System (LCCS)1 and field data from a variety of sources.
The data collected in the for the WISDOM database allowed for the creation of maps of woody biomass stocking and potential sustainable productivity with high spatial resolution. Similarly, the integration of population distribution maps with fuelwood and charcoal consumption values by sector and by rural settlements and urban areas resulting from the review of a wide variety of sources, allowed the creation of woodfuel consumption maps at the spatial resolution of less than 1 km.
The combination of supply and demand data within cells of approximately 9 x 9 km for 1172 administrative units allowed the creation of balance maps showing the deficit or surplus of fuelwood in a local context, which represents the gathering horizon of poor rural and sub-urban households that cannot afford marketed woodfuels or that live far from market centres
In some cases, the areas with pronounced deficit conditions imply (i) the use of non-sustainable sources such as land clearings for conversions to permanent agriculture and shifting cultivations that may temporarily release large amounts of wood and/or (ii) a non sustainable pressure on more accessible natural formations with their inevitable progressive degradation (a common condition for Burundi, Rwanda and probably Eritrea). Another probable effect may be a widespread shift to lower grade biomass fuels such as straw, residues and cow dung. All effects that pose further burden on the environment, on agricultural productivity and inevitably on the poorest segments of the society that depend on these resources.
Key findings are:
• the areas that present a more or less marked deficit in the local demand/supply balance encompass some 12.5 percent of the total area being analyzed.
• there are countries literally dominated by deficit areas, such as Burundi and Rwanda, others that present important deficit areas, such as Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan.
• in the study area over 41% of rural populations face medium-high to high deficit conditions. In absolute numbers this corresponds to some 59.2 million people.
• in countries like Burundi and Rwanda virtually the entire population face deficit conditions.
The thematic geo-statistical layers produced with this WISDOM exercise and reported in this paper represent the beginning rather than the conclusion of an analytical process. They may, and hopefully will, support further level of analysis at both lower and higher geographical levels. At lower levels, i.e. national and sub-national, they can serve as basis of WISDOM analyses aimed at supporting and guiding energy and forestry policies. At higher levels, i.e. regional and global, they can contribute and provide qualified reference to regional and global wood energy mapping.
1 LCCS land cover maps and ecological zoning