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The wood energy sector in Africa, specifically in the eastern and central sub-regions, plays a major role in both the forestry and energy sectors. 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 contributed from 75 to 86 percent of total primary energy consumption (FAO 1999).

Given this important role in energy and forestry, wood energy mapping at national and international levels, serves several inter-sectoral purposes. It supports both sustainable forest management and energy planning; it helps to identify the potential for bioenergy development; and it helps to identify vulnerable geographic areas (in terms of pressures on the poor and/or the environment).

In the context of poverty and food security, energy issues are 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. At the same time, lack of accessible wood resources creates an added burden on the rural poor who rely on them, triggering a vicious cycle in which essential soil nutrients (such as agricultural residues and cow dung) are burnt rather than returned to the soil, creating additional negative consequences on the production of food crops.

Wood energy mapping, based on the integration of woodfuel demand with sustainable supply capacities, allows for the identification of potential wood resources as well as critical areas where livelihoods or the environment might be under threat. The East Africa Woodfuel Integrated Supply/Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM) methodology was applied to illustrate the contribution made by woodfuels to poverty, forestry and the environment in ten countries: Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Rationale of the study

Many factors contribute to the marginal attention that the wood energy sector receives at national as well as international levels, all of which generally relate to lack of information on the sector. Among them, we can highlight the following:

In response to these problems, the Forest Products and Economic Division of FAO with its Wood Energy activities (FOPP-WE) promotes actions designed to clarify the role of wood energy and the opportunities that this sector has to offer to forestry, energy, poverty alleviation, food security and to the environment.

More specifically, the study is designed to:

FOPP-WE intends to achieve these objectives through a series of activities aimed at providing a coherent and updated overview of the wood energy situation, including demand and supply aspects, and its relation to poverty and food security. This will include the analysis of national wood energy data using FAO’s interactive Wood Energy Information Statistics (i-WESTAT version 2) and an overview of the current wood energy situation in relation to woody biomass available for energy purposes.

In recent years FOPP-WE has already conducted national-level wood energy analyses in Mexico, Senegal and Slovenia applying the Woodfuel Integrated Supply/Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM) methodology and now intends to develop a global overview of wood energy situations in relation to poverty, food security, climate change and sustainable forest management.


The scope of this report was to present sub-regional wood energy maps applying WISDOM for visualizing current woodfuel supply source levels and consumption patterns in selected African countries in order to improve the understanding of the role played by wood energy in the countries analyzed.

Making use of the information available under the FAO’s Land Cover Classification System (LCCS)2, this exercise includes 10 countries of East and Central Africa: Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

This task represented the first application of the WISDOM analysis on a group of countries in a given region and contributed to: estimates of woody biomass for energy purposes and also represented an important contribution to poverty mapping, to which it will add an essential energy dimension.

Institutional synergies

The study benefited from collaborations and synergies between FOPP-WE, the Natural Resources Service (SDRN) of the Sustainable Development Department of FAO and the Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare (IAO) of Florence.

The woodfuel supply mapping activities were carried out in collaboration with the FAO/UNEP Cooperative Programme Global Land Cover Network (GLCN) and with the Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare (IAO) of Florence, that hosts the GLCN Topic Centre and that was already in the process of collecting and analyzing biomass data for the assessment of carbon stock in relation to LCCS parameters.

The collaboration with Valerio Avitabile of IAO, in charge of the carbon assessment programme has been very intense and fruitful. The woody biomass maps, produced for the ten Africover countries, are the result of this collaborative effort and should be considered as a joint FAO/IAO product. These maps, which were used in the present study as basis for the analysis of woodfuel supply potentials, are limited to the estimation of above ground woody biomass and, as such, they represent preliminary products of the IAO programme of estimating above and below ground carbon stock of all woody and non-woody vegetation types.

Concerning the module of woodfuel consumption, the study benefited from the collaboration with the Geographic Information Systems Group of SDRN working on the Food Insecurity Vulnerability Mapping System (FIVIMS), which provided most recent cartographic representations of the spatial distribution of rural and urban population for Africa for the year 2000.

2 LCCS was developed and implemented in the framework of the FAO Africover Programme of the Natural Resources Service (SDRN). The countries covered are:
Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt (NEPAD countries), Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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