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2. Rural fuelwood: Significant relationships

Amulya Kumar N. Reddy

1. Introduction
2. The ecosystem approach
3. Agricultural ecosystems
4. Fuelwood projects and development
5. Land and fuelwood
6. Water and fuelwood
7. Nutrients and fuelwood
8. Inanimate energy and fuelwood
9. Animal energy and fuelwood
10. Fodder and fuelwood
11. Cooking and fuelwood
12. Trees and fuelwood
13. Other uses of wood
14. Wood and buildings
15. Wood exports and imports
16. Human beings and fuelwood
17. Fuelwood in an agricultural ecosystem

1. Introduction

Solar energy collected by plants and stored, in the form of biomass, particularly as wood, is a major source of energy in developing countries, as it war in the pre-industrial past of developed countries. But wood, is a renewable sources only when the rate at which it is depleted is less than the rate at which it is regenerated. This is certainly not the case in most developing countries where wood is a rapidly dwindling resources due to the multiplicity of its uses and the escalation in the magnitude of its consumption resulting from the burgeoning populations.

Attention has therefore been focussed on programmes for the regeneration of wood resources, but very few of those have been successful. The reasons for the failure of these programmes are many, but one important reason is the fact that wood is involved in a number of relationships and there is insufficient appreciation of either the nature or extent of these relationships.

The aim of this paper, therefore, is to develop a scheme which permits the display and description of (a) the relationships involving the use of wood and (b) the potentialities of wood as a resources in the economy.

2. The ecosystem approach

One of the most useful ways in which the inter-relationships involving wood can be portrayed is through the ecosystem approach in which the term ecosystem is used to designate any area of nature that includes living organism and non-living substances interacting to produce an exchange of materials between the living and non-living parts.

The advantage of the ecosystem approach in that it clearly reveals the entities involved in the functioning of the ecosystem, their interactions, the flows of materials, nutrients and energy, and above all, the environmental constraints on economic activities as well au the impact of these activities upon, the environment. If the depletion and regeneration of wood resources is being considered in a particular geographical region, then that region becomes the "area of nature" defining the spatial aspect of the ecosystem. Further, if the society of human beings in that area is differentiated from other living organisms and assigned special attention, then a human ecosystem has been defined.

There are several types of human ecosystems, but it is the agricultural ecosystem in developing countries which is particularly relevant to this paper because it involves wood resources to a significant extent. In additional, there are the two types of forest ecosystems: one type which involves people living in forests and the other type in which forests are linked to wood-based industry, but these will not be discussed further because they are lops relevant to fuelwood projects than agricultural ecosystems.

3. Agricultural ecosystems

The essential characteristic of an agricultural ecosystem is that it includes a human settlement engaged in the production of food. One widely prevalent version of such a settlement is a village. Unfortunately, there have been few investigations of village agricultural ecosystems, but a recent study of Ungra in South India (Ravindranath et al 1981, Reddy 1981) provides a useful basis for the present paper which aims at the development of a methodology rather than a universal analysis.

The study provided quantitative information inter alia on the pattern of land-use (Table 2-1) and cropping (Table 2-2), the above-ground plant biomass productivities (Table 2-3), the disaggregation of the above-ground plant biomass into components such as grain, straw, etc. (Table 2-4), the model of utilization of these components (Figure 2-1), the fodder consumption by live-stock (Table 2-5) and the sources of fuel (Table 2-6).1 From this information, it is possible (Ravindranath et al 1981) to represent the operation of the Ungra village agricultural ecosystem by means of the usual type of diagram with the symbols used, by Odum (Odum, 1971).

1 The tables and Figure 2-1 appear at the end of the paper.

Such an ecosystem diagram helps to reveal clearly the complex inter-relationships between human beings, livestock, land, energy and water, and water, and between food, fuel, fodder and fertilizer. But the inclusion of the Ungra ecosystem diagram in the present paper would divert attention to a great deal of information directly relevant to a discussion of wood resources. In addition, it would the detailed description of a specific village with all its peculiar features, for instance the absence of fuel exports. Nevertheless, the understanding derived from the Ungra ecosystem is useful in evolving a simplified generalized diagram which can then be used to discuss the role of wood in typical village agricultural ecosystems. The procedure will consist of considering all the ecosystem components and activities land, water, nutrients, inanimate and animal, energy, fodder, cooking, trees, building, etc.) one by one and discussing the interactions between fuelwood and each of these components or activities. This understanding of pair-wise interactions will, then be integrated into an ecosystem diagram which displays all the complex and varied inter-relationships involving fuelwood. What follows therefore is the step-by-step development of suck a diagram and a description of the ecosystem relationships involving wood.

It must be stressed, however, that the ensuing analysis is derived from an understanding of the Ungra ecosystem. Hence, it refers mainly to India, but it can be applied after suitable modifications to other parts of the world.

4. Fuelwood projects and development

The goal of fuelwood projects is to advance development, which is viewed as a process of satisfying the basic needs of human beings, particularly the needs of the neediest, in a self-reliant, ecologically sound manner. Hence it is vital to consider wood resources in their relationship to basic needs. Taking the basic needs as food, clothing and shelter, the following points are obvious.

(i) Land must be allocated for food and other crops.

(ii) In addition to land, the growing of crops requires water, nutrients and energy.

(iii) Traditional agriculture is based on human energy, but in India, and much of Asia, the energy for many critical agricultural operations such as ploughing comes from draught animals.

(iv) Apart from the grain from crops, human beings also consume milk and meat; which means that livestock-rearing is an integral part of meeting food requirements.

(v) Draught animals and other livestock require fodder, and this fodder comes from crop residues and/or grazing in pasture land; hence, pasture lands and fodder production are crucial.

(vi) Most food is cooked, and the energy required for cooking is obtained primarily from fuelwood, but agricultural residues and cattle dung are also used.

(vii) Fuelwood comes predominantly from trees which grow in special woodlots and/or along the sides of fields or roads. Forests may also become a fuelwood sources if they are close enough to the villages.

(viii) The wood from such trees is used not only as fuel for cooking, but also as fuel in many industries and as a sources of lumber.

(ix) One of the important categories of industries which depends upon fuelwood is that involving the production of bricks and tiles for building to satisfy the basic need for shelter. Another fuelwood-using industry is pottery which provides utensils for cooking.

(x) Fuelwood, lumber and fuelwood-based products such as bricks are often exported to or imported from other agricultural ecosystems and towns and cities.

(xi) Apart from providing fuel, trees fulfil many other functions - they give shade, shelter, edible nuts, oilseeds, medicines, and provide for many other needs.

There are a number of relationships, synergisms and conflicts involved in the situation which merit elaboration because they have a major influence on the outcome of fuelwood projects.

Figure 2-2: Land and fuelwood

Figure 2-3: Water and fuelwood

5. Land and fuelwood

In an agricultural ecosystem, there are several demands upon the available land it has to be used for housing and other parts of the human settlement, some in submerged by natural and artificial water bodies, but the bulk of the land is devoted to crops and pastures (Figure 2-2).

The traditional land-utilization practice (which embodies a great deal of wisdom) is to have woodlots only on non-arable land. Since this practice does not lead to any reduction in the land set apart for crops and pastures, it prevents the development of any conflict between food and fodder, on the one hand and fuel on the other. In case non-arable land is unavailable, the growth of trees has to be restricted to the borders of fields, water-bodies or roads. If however, the fuelwood output of these "border trees" is inadequate to meet the requirements of the ecosystem, then attempts to allocate land for separate woodlots will result in a reduction of the area available for cropland and pastureland, and therefore in a conflict between the need for fuelwood and the requirement of food and fodder.

Several possible ways of resolving the conflict between woodlots and land, for crops and pastures can be considered.

(i) The fuelwood requirements can be eliminated by the adoption of alternative fuel(s) or reduced by improving the efficiency with which fuelwood is used.

(ii) The area set apart for pastureland can be reduced through the cultivation of high-productivity fodder species.

(iii) Pastureland can be put to multiple use by combining the growth of fodder species and fuelwood trees in two-tier forests where the lower tier is devoted to fodder and the upper tier to fuelwood.

(iv) The land devoted to non-food crops can be reduced and the corresponding land used for woodlots.

In the absence of such deliberate measures, what generally happens is that land which is under tree cover is cleared for cultivation. This removal of tree cover leads to soil erosion - and, in extreme cases, to desertification - and therefore to a deterioration in the quality of cropland. Thus, as is well known, deforestation to promote food production may frustrate the very capacity to produce foods The result is the same when the deforestation is carried out to secure fuelwood, i.e., the satisfaction of the need for fuelwood can lead to a diminution in the quality of land.

6. Water and fuelwood (figure 2-3)

Crop production is generally water-limited. This water limitation may be due to the seasonality and insufficiency of rainfall and/or the restricted availability of ground-water and/or the inadequacy of energy to transfer the water from where it in available to where it is required.

If ground-water resources are limited, then an increase in the supply of water can be achieved by importing water through irrigation projects or by harvesting rain-water, i.e. by collecting rain-water from micro-catchments and storing it in tanks and ponds. The import of water depends upon decisions and actions taken outside the ecosystem, but water-harvesting within the ecosystem implies an increase in the area occupied by water-bodies. This increase may take place at the expense of land useful for woodlots - thus there is a possibility of conflict between water-harvesting and woodlots, analogous to the conflicts on a large scale between dame and forests. If, however, ground water is available, then energy must to utilized to lift the water. This energy must either be imported from sources outside the ecosystem with all the attendant transmission/transport costs of electricity/oil or be made available from within the ecosystem through the supply of animate energy (for example, animal power) or biomass-derived fuels, or the harnessing of wind energy. If these local sources of energy are used for water-lifting, then there can be conflict between the energy needs of water-lifting and those of other tasks.

If fuelwood projects are based on irrigation, the above-mentioned conflicts between water-harvesting and woodlots and between the energy requirements of water-lifting and other energy needs are aggravated. In such situations, the resolution of these conflicts can be achieved by ensuring that the irrigation of fuelwood trees satisfies the following conditions:

Figure 2-5: Inanimate energy and fuelwood

Figure 2-4: Nutrients and fuelwood

(i) The extra volume of harvested rain-water required for woodlot irrigation should be obtained without increasing the area of water-bodies, i.e., the depth of these water-bodies should be increased, or if the area of these water-bodies increases when the volume of harvested water is increased to permit woodlot irrigation, the extra water should be used to obtain, apart from greater fuelwood production, a simultaneous increase of crop and/or fodder yields so that these increased yields compensate for any loss of cropland and/or pastureland.

(ii) If fuelwood trees are irrigated with ground-water, then the energy for the water-lifting should be derived by energy conservation measures, i.e., by an increased use of the same draught animals and/or more efficient use of the inanimate energy already being utilized in the ecosystem so that the delivered energy for other tasks is not reduced, or by an increased supply of energy in the form of fuelwood.

There can also be the following synergism between water-harvesting and woodlots. Woodlots tend to reduce water run-off and increase the recharge of stored/ground water. They generally make the water balance more favourable, particularly with the use of tree species which draw deep water.

7. Nutrients and fuelwood (figure 2-4)

The supply of nutrients to land use for growing crops and/or fodder and/or trees, or at least the replenishment of nutrients removed from this land, is essential for, sustainable agriculture and/or silviculture. In traditional village agricultural ecosystems, only organic sources are used: (i) farmyard manure obtained by composting animal waste, (ii) green manure from leguminous crops and/or from leaves which are the nitrogen - and the phosphorus - rich parts of plants, and (iii) household wastes. A dependence on farmyard manure implies the existence of livestock in the ecosystem which in turn creates a demand for fodder and therefore for land if the fodder comes from pasture land. Thus in an ecoystem depending upon farmyard manure, there can be a conflict between nutrients and land. If, however, the dependence is on green manure which can also be consumed by livestock as fodder, then there is the possibility of a conflict between nutrients and fodder. Under these circumstances, the introduction of fuelwood projects requiring the use of organic nutrients is likely to aggravate the situation and lead to a conflict between organic nutrients and fuelwood trees. The main mechanism for resolving these conflicts is to import the nutrients which may be required for fuelwood projects. On the other hand, there is a synergism &rising from the "nutrient pump effect" in which deep-rooted trees bring up nutrients.

8. Inanimate energy and fuelwood (figure 2-5)

The only sources of inanimate energy available within traditional village agricultural ecosystems are fuelwood, agricultural wastes and cattle-dung-cakes. All these sources are used in varying proportions an fuels to provide heat energy.

Since the combustion of dung-cakes leads to the vaporization of nitrogen and phosphorus, there can be a conflict between fuel and fertilizer, and since the burning of many agricultural residues deprives cattle of sustenance, there in a possibility of conflicts between fuel and fodder. The only traditional source of inanimate energy which does not directly reduce fertilizer and fodder use is fuelwood, a ligneous material.

But, the problem with the traditional fuelwood technologies used in the agriculture of developing countries is that they cannot provide mechanical energy for the operation of stationary and/or mobile equipment.1 Therefore, the requirements of stationary and/or mobile power must be met with human energy and/or animal energy and/or electricity/oil generally imported from outside the ecosystem. Dependence on animal energy increases fodder requirements but at the same time reduces electricity/oil imports. But, the power output of draught animals in limited to about 0.5 HP, which means that tasks requiring greater power inputs will necessarily require the substitution of animal energy with, imported electricity/oil.

1 In the early stages of the industrialization of the developed countries, wood-fired steam/stirling engines were often used.

Figure 2-6 Animal energy and fuelwood

All this means that if fuelwood trees are going to be irrigated with current technologies of lifting groundwater, then there will be an increase in the requirements of animal energy and/or imported electricity/oil leading respectively to increased fodder requirements and/or decreased self-sufficiency of the ecosystem.

One of the possible ways out of this dilemma is to drive waterpumps with engines running with wood-based fuels such as producer gas (mainly a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) or methanol (obtained by the conversion of producer gas). Another alternative is to operate diesel-engine-driven pumpsets with biogas (a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide) obtained by the aerobic fermentation of animal wastes and/or other non-ligneous cellulosic materials.

9. Animal energy and fuelwood (figure 2-6)

Draught animals are the main source of power for stationary and mobile operations when the power requirements exceed the output of human beings. In particular, draught animals supply the power for: (i) agricultural operations such an ploughing, harrowing, water-lifting, and threshing, (ii) transport with animal-drawn vehicles, and (iii) many industrial operations such an crushing, grinding, etc. The only way of replacing animal power is with engines in mobile equipment and with engines and/or motors in stationary equipment. While this mechanization has permitted an increase in power beyond the limits of animals, it has created a demand for oil and/or electricity which invariably have to be imported from outside the ecosystem. In addition, whereas a single draught animal or pair of such animals can accomplish all the agricultural, transport and industrial functions mentioned above, it is usual to have separate items of specialized equipment for each -task or class of tasks. Thus, the replacement of animal power usually requires an array of equipment.

As oil-fuelled and electrical equipment take over the functions of animals, the load factor on animals goes down. Nevertheless, until all the mechanical functions of animals are taken over by machines, draught animals must be maintained to carry out the remaining functions. In these circumstances, the traditional approach is to give the draught animals just enough fodder to enable them to carry out the residual tasks, bat despite this, the input cannot go below maintenance levels. At these dietary levels, the draught animals deliver far less power than what they are capable of with proper feeding. Thus, the partial, as opposed to complete, substitution of animal power by machines may increase the productivity of certain operations, but it does not eliminate the need, for maintenance fodder for draught animals and with such a maintenance diet their power output and productivity are significantly reduced.

Animal energy, therefore, promotes the self-sufficiency of the ecosystem with respect to mechanical power but probably achieves this goal at the expense of productivity; and machines driven with inanimate energy may facilitate greater productivity but lead to greater dependence on the external environment (of the ecosystem) for oil, and/or electricity.

This dilemma of animal power vs mechanization can be resolved in several ways. In situations where the use of animal power is continued, its efficiency can be improved by better design and/or conditions. For example, the productivity of ploughing with draught animals can be enhanced by increasing the soil moisture - thin in a synergism between animal energy and water. Another important approach is to identify those situations whore the replacement of animal power with machines it; justified and to drive these machines with wood-based fuels (producer gas and/or methanol) produced from fuelwood. This would be tantamount to fuelwood replacing animal energy.

Figure 2-7 Fodder and fuelwood

From the transport point of view, however, animal-driven vehicles can provide low-cost transportation for fuelwood. In fact, it appears that, within specific distance regimes - for example about 0.4 kms. to 3.0 kms. in a particular study made in South India (Jagadish, 1979) - animal-drawn vehicles are more economical than either trucks or tractors for fuelwood transport. This implies that animal energy can assist the distribution aspect of the fuelwood system.

10. Fodder and fuelwood (figure 2-7)

The food requirements of the human beings in the ecosystem include, in addition to grain, many non-grain components such as milk, meat, vegetables, etc. The grain components have to be produced by agriculture which requires draught power if it in based, as it invariably in, on tillage. An already mentioned, the draught power in traditional agricultural ecosystems comes from draught animals or human beings. The non-grain components of food include dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and eggs as well as meat. This means that agricultural ecosystems must support, in addition to draught animals, other non-draught categories of livestock such as cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens. In other words livestock are reared to meet the requirements of both energy and food. Through its ability to provide alternative fuels for engines, fuelwood production can diminish the energy contribution demanded of livestock, but the food contribution still remains, necessitating the rearing of livestock.

Livestock rearing, however, generates a demand for fodder. If arboreal forage is not considered part of the fodder system, there are two traditional sources of fodder, agricultural residues and pastureland. The contribution of these two fodder sources to the total fodder requirement varies very widely from ecosystem to ecosystem ranging from one extreme where all the fodder requirements are met by grazing in pastureland to the opposite extreme where fodder is supplied to stable-bound livestock.

In situations where agricultural residues contribute significantly to the total fodder requirements by virtue of their digestibility, it in important that crop varieties are selected both for their grain and straw output. This seems to have been the case with the traditional crop varieties, but the modern dwarf varieties of the green revolution achieve high yields of grain at the expense of the stalk portion which in often used for livestock. This implies a greater demand for fodder from pastureland, and this demand way lead to a reduction in the area available for fuelwood production. Thus, high-yielding varieties may load to a conflict between food and fodder requirements, which In turn may result in a conflict between fodder and fuel. (Incidentally, ouch direct conflicts are avoided in the agricultural systems of the developed countries because they have virtually eliminated their requirements of draught animal power - and the associated fodder requirements - through inputs of inanimate energy in the form of fossil fuel, and because they import significant quantities of livestock feed from the developing countries.)

Even with traditional crop varieties which produce fodder along with grain, there is strong demand in village agricultural ecosystems for pastureland. In fact, the netting apart of land, for livestock grazing was a common feature of these ecosystems in the not too distant past, but increasingly pastureland has been converted into cropland due to pressures of population and land distribution and, as a result, the prospects of using arable land for woodlots have become bleak.

One approach to the resolution of the conflict between food and fodder on the one hand and fuel on the other is to restrict woodlots only to non-arable land. Even when this in done, fuelwood trees suffer from very high "infant mortality" because they become victims of grazing livestock during their seedling and sapling stages of growth. In other words, the conflict between fodder and fuel can have a destructive impact on woodlots on non-arable land during the early stages of growth of fuelwood trees when they are extremely vulnerable to grazing. In this context, the rational approach is to plan simultaneously for both fodder and fuel requirements through a two-tier forest and first to ensure fodder production on a renewable basin before attempting to protect fuelwood seedlings/saplings from grazing.

Figure 2-8 Cooking and fuelwood

11. Cooking and fuelwood (figure 2-8)

Cooking is done almost exclusively with fuelwood (either directly or after conversion into charcoal), agricultural wastes and dung-cakes. As-already pointed out, the combustion of agricultural wastes leads to the lose of fodder unless the waste is not edible by livestock (e.g. sugarcane bagasse) and the burning of dung-cakes results in the lose of nutrients. In fact, it appears that villagers use dung-cakes as cooking fuel only when fuelwood is not available or not conveniently accessible. (There are, however, regions where dung-cakes are used in order to have a very slow-burning fuel, e.g., to thicken milk). Thus, the general preference for fuelwood has a rational basis because it does not involve direct conflicts with fodder and fertilizer requirements.

There are many aspects of the ecological implications of the use of fuelwood for cooking. If the fuelwood for cooking in the ecosystem is obtained predominantly in the form of fallen twigs and branches, i.e. without tree felling, - and this is the case in many regions (Astra 1981) - then the fuelwood resources are being used in a renewable manner. Thus, cooking in the ecosystem with internally available fuelwood resources may not be as responsible for deforestation as is sometimes made out. Butt as soon as the fuelwood has to be transported from or to distances which are far from the ecosystem (which is what happens in the case of fuelwood imports or exports), the preference is for a denser form of fuel, in other words for logo or for charcoal made from such logs. Hence, one of the justifications for planning and establishing fuelwood projects is to increase the supply of fuelwood and avert the catastrophe of not being able to cock the food even if food production can keep pace with population.

At the same time, however, attention is being focussed on the fuelwood utilization question. Studies of the performance of wood stoves are coming up with efficiency values of under 10%, and typically 5%, which means that 90-95% of the heat energy available in fuelwood is being wasted (Geller 1981, De Lepeleire et al., 1981). The initial hopes that the efficiency of the wood stoves of technologically simple peoples can be radically improved are diminishing. It now appears that, barring a breakthrough, one cannot expect more than a doubling or trebling of the efficiency of firewood stoves, and that the ideal stove may well be one in which the wood is converted in situ into producer gas which then becomes the cooking fuel. None of the so-called "improved stoves" approach this ideal and many, in fact, lead to enhanced firewood consumption when subjected to rigorous testing procedures.

All this provides a rational technical basis for villagers to reject the "improved stoves". In addition, it is a moot point whether the poorer strata will ever consider wood-burning stoves (even costlier and improved ones!) as an elevation in their standard of life when they are aware of the fact that the more affluent sections of their society always prefer cleaner and more convenient cooking fuels to wood. The poor know that there is a hierarcy of cooking fuels and they view changes from fuelwood to charcoal to kerosene to electricity/gas as steps in the improvement of the quality of their life. There is in fact a technical basis for these preferences.

Gaseous cooking fuels offer a tremendous advantage - the rate of gas flow, and therefore the rate of combustion and the rate of release of heat energy to the cooking vessel, can be very rapidly altered and easily controlled. This is extremely important because there are cooking operations such as boiling which require a high power output from the stove, and others such as simmering which need a low power output (Dutt 1978). In addition to the control over the gas flow rate, which facilitates easy and quick variations of the power output, a gaseous cooking fuel permits manipulation of the air to fuel ratio and therefore ensures the completeness of the combustion process. The net result of these advantages is that stoves using gaseous cooking fuels can achieve efficiencies which can be five to ten times the efficiency of traditional firewood stoves.

In view of this conflict between cooking efficiencies and fuelwood, the option of conserving fuelwood by using gaseous fuels instead of wood for cooking seems much more attractive than improving the performance of woodstoves. The two gaseous fuels which can be generated from the internal resources of agricultural ecosystems are producer gas obtained by the partial combustion of wood and biogas obtained by the anaerobic fermentation of livestock wastes.

Figure 2-9 Trees and fuelwood

Figure 2-10 Other uses of wood

Figure 2-11 Wood and buildings

12. Trees and fuelwood (figure 2-9)

Fuelwood is obtained mainly from trees, but Many shrub species also serve as a source. Since there is a great pressure on land for agriculture, the growth of fuelwood trees is generally restricted to separate areas, or woodlots. But due to the conflict between food, fodder and fuel requirements, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find land, even of the non-arable variety, for woodlots.

Very often, therefore, the only trees are those that can be integrated with agricultural use of the land with little or no competition with food and fodder; for example, trees that can be grown on the borders of fields, water-bodies, roads, etc. In a sense, these "border trees" do not occupy land which is required for food and fodder, particularly if they are straight and tall and do not deprive the ground crops of too much light. It is important that they are not profligate with their requirements of water - otherwise, the conflict between fuel and water will be aggravated. Fuelwood trees must also not be too demanding with regard to soil nutrients, and should preferably be nitrogen-fixers so that they enrich the soil. It is an advantage if they also contribute by products of economic value, such as fodder or fruit. In other words, there can be conflicts between particular fuelwood species and the requirements of food, water and fertilizer.

Fortunately there are species which satisfy these conditions. Leucaena leucocephala, for example, casts a light shade, needs little water, is leguminous and if; a source of fodder.

13. Other uses of wood (figure 2-10)

The wood resources of the agricultural ecosystem are used to meet the requirements of several end uses. Of these, cooking is the most important, but it is essential to reckon with other end uses. In the household sector, for instance, fuelwood is also consumed for water heating and space heating. In addition, fuelwood is used in all the traditional industries which require heat energy. It is only very recently that these small scale industrial uses of wood fuel in rural areas have started to be investigated (e.g. Donovan 1980). In particular, attention is being focussed on brick-burning, tile-making, pottery, processing of tobacco, tea, cardamon, etc., black-smithy, soap-making, etc. Wood is also used as a structural material in buildings and animal-drawn vehicles. The scarcity of wood resources implies the possibility of conflicts between wood as a cooking fuel and wood for other end ages.

14. Wood and buildings (figure 2-11)

Significant quantities of wood are used in the building sector. Wood, is utilized both directly as a structural material in the form of lumber and indirectly as a fuel for the production of fired bricks and tiles. In both these applications, twigs and branches are usually not used, and logo which can only come from felled trees are required. Brick-burning in particular generates considerable demand for wood especially when it in achieved with batch production - in a specific region in South India, approximately 0.4 tonnes of fuelwood is used to burn a 1000 bricks (Jagadish 1979a). It in becoming clear that, in many parts of the Third World, the depletion of fuelwood resources will inhibit the success of building programmes based on burnt bricks and tiles. This implies a conflict between fuelwood and shelter,

There appear to be many ways in which this conflict can be resolved - for instance, one promising approach is to use unburnt, but machine-compacted and water-proofed, mud blocks instead of burnt bricks, and alternative roofing materials, preferably based on agricultural residues, in place of tiles. An interesting synergism between roofing materials and wooden structural roof supports can be exploited - the lighter the roofing, the less the volume (and therefore weight) of lumber required to support the roof.

Figure 2-12: Wood exports and imports

Figure 2-13: Human beings and fuelwood

15. Wood exports and imports (figure 2-12)

The dependence on fuelwood for cooking is not a rural phenomenon only; in most developing countries, the use of fuelwood and charcoal in urban areas is significant. In India, for instance, about 20% of the total population lives in towns and cities and approximately 65% of the urban households use firewood as a cooking fuel - this corresponds to about 30 million tonnes (Government of India, 1979)

Most towns and cities, however, do not have woodlots as part of their ecosystem, which means that they import their firewood and/or charcoal from the rural areas. Further, to facilitate the transport of this firewood, it has to be in the denser form of logo, which means that tree-felling is almost a necessary part of supplying fuelwood to urban conglomerations. Thus, both the magnitude of firewood exports to towns and cities as well as the type of fuelwood exported, logo, constitute a significant drain on the wood resources of village agricultural ecosystems; they are perhaps far more responsible for the deforestation in such ecosystems than the internal use of wood as a cooking fuel. There is a conflict, therefore, between fuelwood exports and the fuel requirements of agricultural ecosystems. Of course, exports from an ecosystem also bring income into it, but the point is that an export orientation changes the behaviour of the ecosystem, sometimes for the worse.

This conflict is aggravated by a common urban preference for charcoal. This preference arises mainly because charcoal has a higher calorific value per unit volume, and it neither catches fire nor deteriorates as easily as wood. First, charcoal produced from twigs and thin branches crumbles and powders easily during storage and transport. Hence charcoal production requires logs from felled trees. Second, high-quality charcoal requires wood from the trees with dense wood which are the best for timber uses Third, in the interest of transport economies, the charcoal required by towns and cities is produced where wood resources are available and in a decentralized manner, often on a household scale. Since the conversion efficiency in such miniscule charcoal-production units is only about 25% (0.25 kgs. charcoal/kg. wood) and the efficiency of' charcoal stoves is only 1.8 times greater than woodstoves, the overall consumption of wood resources is greater when fuelwood is converted into charcoal cooking fuel than when it is used directly. Hence, there is a conflict between charcoal and fuelwood.

Wood exports from agricultural ecosystems take place not only to supply the cooking fuel requirements, but also the raw materials needs of lumber mills located in towns and cities. In this case, too, wood is required in the form of large logs and trunks which can be obtained only by cutting down trees. Thus the export of lumber-wood from agricultural ecosystems also has a negative impact on their wood resources.

The various unwelcome consequences of wood exports can be diminished by two important strategies. With regard to urban fuel requirements, programmes can be initiated (1) to utilize the biogas obtained by the treatment of urban sewage, (2) to convert town and city garbage into combustible fuels, and (3) to establish green belts around towns and cities and generate producer gas from the fuelwood obtained from the trees in these belts. Such programmes can involve piped supply of sewage, garbage and producer gases.

16. Human beings and fuelwood (figure 2-13)

Of course, human beings are the most important, part of the agricultural ecosystem and the focus of the development process. Human beings and, wood resources are related in five obvious ways.

First, there is theoretically a maximum to the population which can be supported by the food produced from a given area of land, but this so-called "carrying capacity" depends in part upon the agricultural technologies which are deployed, there being the possibility of adaptive strategies. Green revolution agricultural technologies have increased the carrying capacity many-fold, but this increase has been achieved by increased inputs such as water, fertilizer or inanimate energy. When technologies of enhancing the carrying capacity are not used (for reasons ouch as the lack of capital, water, fertilizer, energy or skills), the only way of augmenting food production after the population approaches the carrying capacity is to increase the area under crop cultivation, for example by clearing forests. This leads to an indirect conflict between people and land which is suitable for woodlots.

Figure 2-14 Fuelwood in an agricultural ecosystem

Second, an increasing human population loads, in the absence or non-implementation of alternative cooking fuels, to an increasing fuelwood demand at the rate of about 600 tonnes per year for every 1000 additional persons. Thus there is a direct conflict between human beings and fuelwood resources.

Third, a growth in human population loads to increased demand for all the other non-cooking-fuel uses of wood - i.e. for other domestic uses and for industrial uses of fuelwood and lumber.

Fourth, it has been recently argued that domestic chores such as gathering fuelwood, fetching drinking water and grazing livestock encourage people to have large families because children contribute a significant fraction of the human energy necessary to accomplish these tasks which are so vital to a family's survival. As a result, the greater the distance from which fuelwood has to be gathered, and the more the hardship and time required for the task of gathering fuel, the more important it is for a family to have children. Hence there can be a conflict between fuelwood collection and population control.

Finally, children have to be removed from school in order to perform the tack of gathering fuelwood, and this creates a conflict between the use of fuelwood and the education of rural children.

17. Fuelwood in an agricultural ecosystem

The above presentation has focused on a number of pairs of interactions, each pair consisting of fuelwood and one other ecosystem component or activity. But the pairs are all inter-related, not only through fuelwood, but because there are separate linkages between the ecosystem components and activities. For example, the land-fuelwood and humans-fuelwood pairs are linked through the fact that human energy plays a major role in utilizing land for growing food. This means that the separate diagrams (Figures 2-2 - 2-13) portraying each pair interaction must be assembled and integrated into a single diagram which will display, not only the pair-wise interactions, but also the inter-relationships between pairs. The result of such a procedure is shown in Figure 2-14 which reveals the complex, inter-relationships involving fuelwood. The diagram shows that the planning of a fuelwood project requires an understanding of all these linkages. What often happens, however, is that many fuelwood projects ignore crucial interactions and adopt a naive fuelwood-for-cooking approach.

There is a further complication. Human beings have been treated thus far as a single category, as is customary in ecosystem studies. In stratified, societies, however, several phenomena in human ecosystems become comprehensible only when human society is disaggregated into the relevant economic categories, particularly those categories which describe the inequalities in the ownership and control over assets. Thus, discussions of fuelwood must take into account the fact that in most developing countries all families do not have the same extent, of dependence on fuelwood or the same degree and type of access to this fuel.

The rich and powerful sections of rural society own a disproportionately greater fraction of the land, they derive the greatest benefits from water-bodies and ground-water, they have much better access to trees even when they do not own them, they can hire labour to obtain fuelwood, they use liquid and gaseous fuels to a greater extent, and so on. In contrast, the poorest sections, invariably consisting of the landless groups, have the greatest problems with regard to fuelwood. Almost always, they have to get their fuel supplies at zero private direct cost by gathering fuelwood from wherever they are allowed to collect it, and this effort consumes a considerable amount of time, apart from involving them in a client-patron relationship. Such groups are usually the least likely to get a proportionate share in the produce of fuelwood projects, and as a result, they are chary about making contributions of voluntary or communal labour to fuelwood projects.

Even if the labour for fuelwood projects is paid for, its seasonality must be taken into account. There can be a conflict between the need for labour on woodlots and the requirements for labour on the farms. When there is such a conflict, the marginal and small farmers who are the ones most likely to work on woodlots (i.e., apart from landless labourers) may prefer to work on their own farms in the hope of much greater returns from their land.

Families below or around the poverty line usually make illicit use of resources. For instance, they seek to supplement their incomes by raising livestock - goats, sheep and cattle - many categories of which have to be taken out for grazing wherever grass and leaves are available. The saplings of fuelwood trees are usually a prime target in these grazing expeditions. Thus, the high "infant mortality" of fuelwood species is predominantly due to the survival value of livestock grazing to the poorest sections of rural society.

Another important impact of inequalities in land ownership on fuelwood is a result of a mechanism that is often adopted for satisfying the land hunger of the landless. An egalitarian approach would consist of redistributing land by imposing ceilings and distributing the excess land of those with large holdings; instead, the large land-owners are often left untouched by the so-called "land reform" and pastureland or land under tree cover is given to the landless. Such measures reduce the fuelwood availability as well as the land which could be used for woodlots - hence, there can be a conflict between land distribution and fuelwood.

It appears therefore that whereas the fuelwood situation per se can be remedied if equity considerations are ignored, it is much more difficult to accomplish fuelwood projects with equity. The problem is further complicated by three other factors:

(i) Women, rather than men, have a much clearer perception of the fuelwood crisis, because the burden of gathering firewood falls primarily on women and children;

(ii) fuelwood is often ranked lower than other needs such as food, employment or water in the villager's perception of priorities;

(iii) fuelwood in many regions is traditionally viewed as a common good and the persistence of this attitude can interfere with the implementation of projects which require a different approach.

Table 2-1 Land-use pattern



Cultivated (22)*



Crop land

Fallow (1)





Grass land (3)



Marsh land (1)



Plantation (coconut, fuel) (2)



Water-bodies (2)



Settlement (houses, road, etc.) (4)





* Number in brackets refers to number of items aggregated.

Table 2-2 Cropping pattern - AY 1979-80





Area (ha)


Area (ha)


1. (a) Paddy (local)





(b) Paddy (KYV)









2. Ragi





3. Sorghum





4. Sugarcane





5. Horsegram





6. Coconut









7. Others (20)










Table 2-3 Above-ground plant biomass productivity






1. Crops


1(a) Paddy (local)






1(b) Paddy (HYV)








1.2 Ragi





1.3 Sorghum





1.4 Sugarcane





1.5 Horsegram





1.6 Coconut





1.7 Others








2. Grass land





3. Fallow land





4. March





5. Shrub








Total average



1 913.0


Table 2-4 Disaggregation of above-ground plant biomass

Table 2-5 Fodder consumption by livestock






Goat(s) and Sheep

Paddy straw







Sorghum grain







Sorghum straw







Grass + Fallow














Fodder from crops 621 (60.8%)

Fodder from grass = 400 (39.2%)

Land + Fallow land + = 400 (39.2%)

Marsh land = 400 (39.2%)

Table 2-6 Fuel sources

From Ecosystem




Other crops


Trees (Twigs)


Trees (Felled)






Imports from outside Ecosystem

FW (Bought)


Fit (Gathered)







Figure 2-1 Utilization of Paddy Biomass

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