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Energy for subsistence

A strategy for action
Increasing the productivity of existing resources
Creating new resources
Improving fuelwood distribution
Improving conversion technologies
Finding substitutes for fuelwood
Nepal: A case study

A strategy for action

Forests have an important role to play in human development. It is FAO's view that forests can do much more than provide energy for subsistence, and that their role in providing energy for development will ultimately be just as important. For the moment, however, the issue of energy for subsistence has priority because the current fuelwood problem is so acute.

One aspect of the fuelwood problem is encouraging: the solutions are largely known. The critical factor, however, is time the problem has already reached crisis proportions for millions of people and will get rapidly worse without swift action. This action, as has already been stressed, must be taken within the context of integrated rural development.

FAO's Forestry Department has identified five major tactics in the battle against fuelwood deficits. In most field programmes, these tactics will be combined to produce an action plan operating on several different fronts simultaneously. The tactics are:

1. Increasing the productivity of existing resources Putting existing woods and forests under management, particularly by local populations, can increase productivity by as much as 50 per cent. Resting over-worked areas can also be very beneficial and using all existing biomass - including non-forest areas, shrubs, bushes and what is normally regarded as 'waste' - can increase fuelwood supply substantially.

2. Creating new fuelwood resources Planting stands of fast-growing trees presents no serious technological problem. In many areas new plantations can start to yield fuelwood within a few years. The cost may appear high - one estimate shows that delivered fuelwood from new plantations costs $2-4/GJ, compared to about $5/GJ for crude oil. However, the former involves no foreign exchange costs, provides a multitude of other advantages and should eventually become financially self-supporting. Generally, plantations need not compete for land with other agricultural practices. If 2-5 per cent of available land is planted with trees, there need be no net loss of agricultural production - indeed, in some areas, tree planting actually increases food production.

3. Improving fuelwood distribution A key factor in the price of fuelwood and charcoal is the distance over which it must be transported to the user. FAO studies indicate that fuelwood cannot be transported economically over distances of more than 100 km but that the limit for charcoal is in the region of 800 1000 km. There is an urgent need to organize and increase the efficiency of the fuelwood industry by such means as establishing marketing cooperatives, price structures and improved storage facilities.

4. Improving conversion technologies There are three possible ways of improving the efficiency with which fuelwood and charcoal are used and made: pre-processing the fuel, by pressing it into bundles for example; increasing the efficiency of charcoal production (traditional methods waste up to 60 per cent of the energy value of the wood); and large-scale dissemination of efficient woodstoves, combined with efforts to improve cooking efficiency. An efficient wood stove can produce fuel savings of 30 per cent or more for a small cost. In some cases, changes in cooking habits can also produce similar savings.

5. Finding substitutes for fuelwood The impact of substitution over the next two decades is likely to be limited but, biogas and solar energy can usually make some contribution. Fossil fuels may have to be used, regardless of cost, in areas where appropriate forestry solutions cannot be implemented in time to avert a disastrous fuelwood shortage.

Before a programme combining these techniques can be devised, however, it is essential to assess the fuelwood situation in the country concerned. For example, an FAO study of this type in Upper Volta surveyed urban and rural fuelwood and charcoal consumption, the role which other fuels played in the domestic economy and the value of the fuelwood and charcoal industries. Data were also accumulated on the potential of existing resources. The survey showed that Upper Volta could, perhaps surprisingly, provide sufficient fuelwood and charcoal for its own needs - but that there were huge imbalances, creating acute scarcities in certain regions: some of the largest resources were virtually inaccessible. The government of Upper Volta is now preparing its national fuelwood plan on the basis of this information.

FAO's fuelwood strategy comprises five major tactics for combatting fuelwood shortages, each involving several techniques. Most fuelwood projects involve the integration of several or all the tactics to produce a scheme which is compatible with overall plans for rural development

A similar study in Bangladesh revealed a very different situation one where fuelwood use was, in fact, marginal simply because so little was available. Homestead forests, which supply most fuelwood, were being cut at about 10 per cent a year while their growth rate was only 5 per cent a year. Overall, the survey showed a forest products deficit of some 800 000 m3 a year over and above what was sustainable. On the basis of this and other information, FAO was able to make recommendations to Bangladesh on how best to reduce future shortages.

Increasing the productivity of existing resources

There should, in theory, be no such thing as a fuelwood shortage. The theoretical potential annual growth of the world's forests is estimated at 110.109 terajoules (1 terajoule is 1012 joules) - several hundred times total world energy consumption. One of the problems, however, is that severe local shortages can exist in spite of global abundance. Another is that best use is rarely made of what does exist. Improving the productivity of existing resources is obviously much cheaper than establishing new plantations. Active management is needed not only of the forests themselves, but also of all other types of tree cover - open scrub, small woodlots and even of trees grown for other purposes such as fruit, fodder or shelter. Even simple protection measures can sometimes increase yield by more than 50 per cent. Before the productivity of existing resources can be increased, a number of basic institutional problems has to be faced. Traditionally, forestry has rarely included the production of fuelwood as one of its specific aims. On the contrary, many forestry services have been established to promote forest industries, such as paper and pulp, and to protect forests against the incursions of local people. In many countries, foresters and local populations have come into conflict. In the light of the current fuelwood crisis, this has to change. The provision of fuelwood must become one of the major goals of national forestry services, and every attempt must be made to win the support and help of local people. Only if they are actively involved in managing and controlling their fuelwood supplies is there any hope of averting worsening problems in the future. There are six basic preconditions to improving the productivity of existing resources:

· production of fuelwood will have to become a major goal of national forestry policy

· national policy must reconcile the conflicting demands of preserving forests for timber production and providing fuelwood for local people

· new legislation must be passed to provide local people with access to fuelwood resources and stimulate them to become involved in forest management and control

· forestry institutions must be strengthened so that they can help local people manage their own fuelwood resources sustained yield management practices must be adopted to stimulate forest biomass production

· the fuelwood potential of existing resources must be surveyed and publicized

One important reason for the low productivity of today's forests is past unplanned use, resulting in a low level of yield. Introducing scientific forestry practices can ensure high and sustainable yields. Out of 881 million ha of productive closed forests in the world, only about 41 million ha are now being managed on sustainable yield principles, providing a continuous supply of forest products, including timber and fuelwood.

An FAO project which took place in Ghana during the 1970s demonstrates the advantages of new practices (and the waste inherent in some old ones). In Ghana, the original forest has been extensively cut in the past for valuable hardwood species. Although the forest remains, it is not highly productive. Such forests are often simply felled and burnt, and then replanted for specific products such as paper and pulp.

This practice is not only wasteful but encourages the growth of weeds on the cleared land - so much so that as many as 12 separate weedings may be needed before the new trees become finally established. On 57 000 ha of the Subri River Forest Reserve in south-west Ghana, however, it was decided to adopt a new technique.

The forest was cleared for replanting with fast-growing species suitable for pulp and fuelwood. As much as possible of the felled timber was saved and sold as lumber, fuelwood or charcoal. The natural forest was left untouched on all steep slopes, stream banks and in swamps.

This technique had a number of advantages. Because the timber was not burnt on site, the weed problem was greatly reduced. Valuable local species were saved yet the open canopy that resulted for the first two or three years allowed crops of plantain and cassava to be grown between the rows of newly planted species. In essence, the technique substitutes the non-productive activities of burning and weeding for the productive ones of sawmilling and charcoal-making.

Charcoal burning on the Subri River Forest Reserve in Ghana. When the area was replanted for paper pulp fuelwood and charcoal were sold off, and agriculture encouraged between the rows of tree seedlings. Returns exceeded cost by several hundred dollars a hectare

The cost of this exercise, of course, was high. However, the returns from the sale of the felled wood exceeded the conversion cost by several hundred dollars a hectare, even without taking into account the benefits of the extra food production and the advantages to local entrepreneurs who made the charcoal.

The Subri Conversion Technique, as it is now called, could be adapted for many other countries. It is now a well-proven way of making better use of existing resources - resources which have a high potential. Recent FAO studies have shown that the wood available per hectare for fuel amounts to 100-200 m3 in the tropical high forest of Suriname, 88 m3 in the Cerrado region of Brazil, 75 m3 in the Terai area of Nepal, 50 m3 in the Ivory Coast and as much as 30 m3 in the central southern part of Upper Volta.

However, big savings can also be made by making better use of forest wastes. Nearly half of what is cut in the forest is wasted and though much of it is in the form of small branches, twigs and leaves, techniques do exist for compressing such material into bundles and tying them with straw or wire. Bundles like this burn best if they contain a piece of wood in the middle and they provide steady burning suitable for cooking, unlike the material in its loose state which burns erratically and quickly. Simple hand presses for bundling can be made cheaply by local blacksmiths.

Similarly, small particles of wood, sawdust and charcoal waste normally virtually impossible to burn - can be compressed into briquettes. Although this can be done without a binder, the equipment involved is expensive and the drying process energy-intensive. Simple handpresses can be made to produce briquettes using any number of locally available binders - fish waste, resin, tar or animal manure. In Poland a production line process is used to make fuel briquettes from wood bark.

Many of these products have a surprisingly high calorific value. For example, a briquette containing 30 45 per cent charcoal dust, 30-45 per cent chopped twigs and 15-20 per cent manure burns comparably to a medium-quality hard coal. However, few of these techniques have yet been tried out in developing countries. They need to be developed in combined programmes aimed at improving the design and distribution of stoves, because fuel which has been compressed in some way cannot usually be burnt satisfactorily in an open fireplace.

Another way of increasing production is to incorporate fuelwood projects within other agricultural practices. Often the inclusion of fuelwood trees as part of a mixed economy can have important results. In Thailand, smallholders in a coastal area south of Bangkok have begun responding to that city's shortage of charcoal. Although most of the farmers own only 1-10 ha of land, they have evolved a system in which they use their land for mangroves, shrimp ponds and salt pans. The mangroves are converted to charcoal. In this way the smallholders benefit to the maximum extent possible by selling a mixture of energy, food and minerals.

Most of the tools needed for bundling and pelletizing fuels can be made by a local blacksmith. These and other techniques could increase the yield of existing fuelwood resources by up to 20 per cent (a)

Most of the tools needed for bundling and pelletizing fuels can be made by a local blacksmith. These and other techniques could increase the yield of existing fuelwood resources by up to 20 per cent (b)

In Bangladesh, the intensive use which is made of homestead land is somewhat similar. There, individual families plan multiple uses for the land which surrounds their houses in order to make the family more or less self-sufficient in both food and energy. Even individual trees are intensively managed and used.

An existing resource can also be rejuvenated just by leaving it alone for a period. An FAO project at N'Djamena in Chad has shown that simply fencing off areas of natural vegetation and controlling grazing and fuelwood collection for a time can be more effective than new plantation.

Using simple techniques to improve the fuelwood potential of existing resources, it seems possible that production could be increased by an average of 20 per cent. This figure can be used to check the economics of improving what already exists as against planting new areas for fuelwood. New plantations may well be essential but improving production from existing resources is normally the first thing worth looking at. Though implementation may be difficult, the gains can be particularly rewarding.

Creating new resources

The FAO study "Agriculture: Toward 2000" estimates that if all fuelwood shortfalls are to be made good by the end of the century, enough trees must be planted to provide an additional 1000 million m3 of wood in-20 years) time. This means planting several thousand million trees.

The Nairobi Plan of Action, adopted at the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in August 1981, recommended that the annual rate of tree planting in developing countries be increased by a factor of five by the end of the century. This formidable task is made more difficult by the fact that the areas in which new trees are most needed are often those in which population pressure is high and environmental conditions are unfavourable. Indeed, it is often pressure on the land which has led to deforestation, soil erosion and fuelwood shortage in the first place.

In such areas, of course, there is little hope of introducing large-scale, block plantations. But there are other possibilities. These include woodlots, shelter belts and the introduction of trees in gardens, on waste land and along roads and rivers, on a collective as well as an individual basis. FAO has been acquiring experience in providing new resources in all these ways over the past few years. One of the main lessons to be learnt is that encouraging farmers to plant trees on an individual basis is often the most effective method.

Worker examines a one year old gao plant (Acacia albida) in a millet field in eastern Niger. Because they are nitrogen-fixers, these trees can increase the yields of millet and sorghum by three or four times if planted in the same nerds as the crops

In the State of Gujarat, in India, the State Forest Service began to plant roadsides and canal banks with trees in the early 1970s. There was little public involvement in the operation but it served to improve the local population's confidence in the forestry department. It also convinced villagers that trees could be grown on marginal land, and between fields, in such a way that it would not interfere with agricultural production. Free seedlings and advice were given to anyone interested, and a massive publicity programme was mounted. After only a few years, tree planting had increased so much that the 50 million seedlings distributed in 1980 were not enough. In 1982 farmers planted 100 million seedlings; in 1983 they were expected to plant 200 million. By the end of 1982 a total of 13 330 km of roadsides and 2 051 km of canal banks had been planted, covering a total area of nearly 30 000 ha. One reason for this intense activity was the growth of cash markets for fuelwood and poles in nearby towns.

Intelligent legislation, particularly at a local level, can also produce positive results. For example, in the largest city of Gujarat a completion certificate for a new building cannot now be obtained until at least five trees have been planted round it.

The idea of encouraging individuals, particularly farmers, to plant trees has been tried elsewhere. In the Cape Verde Islands, the President has declared it official policy to plant a million trees a year for the next ten years. The policy is backed by extensive publicity campaigns on radio and in the newspapers. In the Philippines, the President has declared that every citizen over the age of ten must plant one tree a year for the next five years.

However, while tree planting may work on an individual basis, this does little to help the landless or the tenant farmer on a short lease. Much attention has therefore been given to communal solutions, such as the village woodlot, which in effect give villagers access to trees even though they own no land.

One of the most successful of these schemes has been in the Republic of Korea. Fuelwood has been in short supply there for many decades but by the early 1960s the problems produced by soil erosion and flooding, as a result of tree felling on steep slopes, had become critical. The government therefore adopted measures to enable every village to plant its own woodlot. Villages were encouraged to set up a Village Forestry Association (VFA) which carried out the work with the help of a government subsidy. Steep or marginal land was used for the woodlots and remarkable coordination was achieved between local, regional and national organizations. Within five years, by 1978, more than 1 million ha had been reforested; 240 000 ha for fuelwood and the rest for fruit and timber. In addition, another 4.4 million ha had been brought under some form of management and a total of nearly 3054 million seedlings had been sown by the 20 000 VFAs then in existence. Nearly all the major objectives of a 10-year programme begun in 1973 had been completed four years ahead of schedule.

The success of village forestry in the Republic of Korea is attributed to a number of factors:

· villagers were already committed to the idea of rural development, and the forestry schemes were well integrated in this broader programme

· a step-by-step approach was adopted; villagers were not asked to do too much too quickly

· there was cooperative action between government and individuals in which 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' planning were combined

· multipurpose trees were chosen to provide quick returns of fuelwood, timber, fruit and nuts

· research and development were used to provide information about the appropriate species and planting techniques

· villagers were provided with the finance, materials and information they needed promptly and efficiently

· new laws resolved ambiguities as to who had responsibility for what and villagers were encouraged to police their own resources and protect them from abuse.

Nevertheless, the cost was high. The five-year programme cost $600 million, of which 60 per cent had to be found from government resources. The importance of community participation in such schemes is also shown by China's experience. Between 1949 and 1978 a mass mobilization of the Chinese people resulted in an increase of China's forests by 72 million ha. Again, the importance of rural development was already established and local organizations existed to do the work. In China, forestry is closely associated with agriculture. For example, Chinese farmers established a 1 500 km long shelter belt in just two seasons in the north-west of the country. Between 1958 and 1975 10000 ha of windbreaks were established in Fu Kou county and 74 million trees - 140 per person - were planted. Forestry programmes in Chouchou county, including planting 16 million trees, have helped to double agricultural production in ten years. Examples such as these prove the importance of integrating fuelwood schemes with agriculture and rural development. FAO has provided advice and technical assistance for fuelwood plantations in many other countries including Cape Verde, Nepal, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Upper Volta and Zaire. While some of these projects are still in their early stages, it is clear that success depends critically on involving the local people, establishing the project within the broader context of rural development and ensuring that village-level institutions exist to take responsibility for woodlot management. In Gujarat, where individual planting has been more successful than community schemes, FAO is now helping the Indian government assess the impact of one of the oldest social forestry programmes in which work started nearly 15 years ago.

FAO's largest fuelwood project - currently taking place in Peru is for a series of rural plantations to help rejuvenate the Sierra area in the Andes where the forests have virtually disappeared. The government's goal is to produce 9 million m3 of wood a year within 15 years, with a plantation programme rising from 10 000 to 60 000 ha/year. Cost over the first five years is estimated at $80 million. The National Reforestation Programme was launched in 1980 to carry out the work. FAO is the executing agency for a trust fund project, financed by the Netherlands, set up to help the Instituto Nacional Forestal plan and execute the reforestation programme, and to help rural communities plant and maintain the new forests. The experience gained in Peru is likely to be of great importance for similar schemes in other parts of the world.

Block plantation can also be a key ingredient in supplying urban centres with badly needed fuelwood. In Ethiopia the town of Dire Dawa is surrounded by sparse bushland, supporting only a few nomadic pastoralists. Fuelwood used to come from a hilly region some distance away but this is now largely deforested. The village woodlot solution is inappropriate here because there are, in effect, no villages. Instead, an FAO project is aimed at establishing 400 ha of managed forest in the bush, training people to make and use improved woodstoves, and finding the best species to provide fuel and poles as well as some fodder for the pastoralists on whose land the project is taking place.

Chinese workforce tends a plantation of single-stem bamboo in Hubei province. If fuelwood shortages are to be avoided by the end of the century, several thousand million new trees must be planted to make good the anticipated 1000 million m3 fuelwood deficit

A similar project plans to supply the town of Kinzono on the Bateke plateau in Zaire with the estimated 500 000 tonnes of charcoal a year it is expected to need by the end of the century. The project would cost $27 million and would involve replanting some 100000 ha with Acacia auriculiformis, to yield 10-12 m3 ha/year of fuelwood. The project should become self-financing, from sales of timber and charcoal, by its ninth year. Eventually, it should provide employment for as many as 10 000 people.

Chinese workers demonstrate the easy way to improve the distribution of wood on the Bai Yang Ha river in Hunan province. There are possibilities of using similar techniques in African countries such as Benin

Improving fuelwood distribution

A major factor in improving fuelwood supplies is distribution. Methods always have to be found of getting the product from where it grows to where it is to be used. Distribution is often the key to satisfying a demand for fuelwood.

Most rural dwellers have always regarded fuelwood as what economists call a 'free good'- something which costs only the labour of carrying it from the forest to the hearth. But free energy, like free grazing, is subject to the tragedy of the commons: an overstocked commons cannot supply all that is needed and it is in no one's interest to take less. However, current fuelwood shortages are at least beginning to make one important point clear: if fuelwood is to be continuously available within reasonable distances and at reasonable cost, it must be planted, managed, harvested, distributed and sold.

Urban dwellers, on the other hand, have rarely regarded fuelwood as a free commodity. They have had to buy both fuelwood and charcoal in the market place. As supplies have become scarcer, and as wood and charcoal have had to be carried further, so prices have risen.

Over the next few years the supply of rural fuelwood will become increasingly commercialized and the concept of firewood as a free good will disappear. Not only is this inevitable; it is desirable - in spite of the excessive profits which may be exacted by rapacious middlemen, and of the difficulties which inflexible bureaucrats may introduce. A properly organized system for the distribution and sale of fuelwood will do much to protect the rural poor from exploitation by the urban middle classes.

Transport is the most important factor in determining the cost of fuelwood. In Nepal in 1975 the cost of collected fuelwood from government forests was $1/m3; this rose to $8/m3 if delivered to a nearby town and to $16/m3 when delivered to Kathmandu.

According to a study sponsored by FAO in the early 1980s, the cost of planting and managing fuelwood is generally about $0.6 to $1.0/GJ, the cost of harvesting $0.35/GJ and the cost of transport at least 0.8 cents/GJ-km for fuelwood and 0.4 cents/GJ-km for charcoal. These figures, given in 1978 values, compare with a cost for crude oil of about $5/GJ. It follows that the price of fuelwood begins to approach that of oil when the distance transported is in the region of 400 km; and charcoal becomes as expensive as oil at about 800 km. In practice, the distance over which it is economic to transport fuelwood is considerably less. It rarely pays to use lorries to transport fuelwood over distances of more than 100 km.

But there are other means of transport. In Scandinavian countries, in North America and in many parts of China, logs are traditionally floated to sawmills by river. In Nigeria, Lagos is supplied with fuelwood - exceptionally for an urban centre it uses little charcoal - brought in by canoes. Water transport may have new uses elsewhere. FAO has made a study of floating fuelwood from new plantations in the north of Benin down the Ouémé river to the urban areas surrounding Cotonou in the south. The idea seems feasible but only under certain conditions and when the river is in flood. Other FAO studies have examined ways in which the wood-rich areas of the west coast of Africa could be used to supply both fuelwood and charcoal to the Sahel countries. One study has concentrated on supplying the city of Ouagadougou in Upper Volta with fuel from the forests of the Ivory Coast.

Such schemes offer potential benefits to both parties, providing fuel for one and a new industry and employment for the other. In fact, the organization of a fuelwood industry can create many jobs. Supplying Ouagadougou with fuelwood provided work for about 16 000 people in 1980; the value of the fuelwood industry needed to supply that one town was about $4.7 million a year.

Sale of fuelwood is often an important source of income for the rural poor and in India studies have shown that it is usually the poorest - the landless and the jobless - who depend on selling firewood. Many of those who now have to travel long distances to collect fuelwood do so not only to provide fuel for the home but also to provide a modest cash income as well. The danger is that the urban centres, with their huge appetites for fuel and their ability to offer cash for payment, will ultimately deprive the rural dweller of the trees on which he depends for his own energy.

New fuelwood plantations must be accompanied by a formally organized fuelwood industry. Where trees have been planted at considerable cost, perhaps with the help of international loans, the product is not in any sense free. Marketing cooperatives and associations need to be organized, a price structure worked out and storage facilities established so that stocks can be accumulated to satisfy demand when supply is low.

The production and marketing of charcoal is already a commercial business in most countries, and one which is now likely to expand significantly because it is economic to transport charcoal over much greater distances than are viable for wood.

In Benin new fuelwood plantations are being created in the north of the country but the fuel is needed in the south, in the urban areas round Cotonou. One solution may be to float the timber down the River Ouémé when it is in flood

Improving conversion technologies

There are three important ways of increasing the efficiency with which fuelwood is converted into useful energy: improving the efficiency of charcoal production, persuading consumers to use improved cooking stoves, and making economies during cooking itself.

Charcoal manufacture is a wasteful business - between about 30 and 60 per cent of the energy originally present in the wood is lost during carbonization. Because of this charcoal has often been blamed for fuelwood shortages. As one commentator put it:

1 tonne charcoal = 6 cubic metres of wood = rapid deforestation.

Yet the equation is not that simple. Charcoal is an excellent fuel, with a calorific value comparable to that of good quality coal and about twice that of wood. It neither rots when stored nor smokes when burnt, is light and hence cheap to transport and imparts a delicious flavour to food cooked over it. The energy losses incurred during production are no larger than those of a power station. And because charcoal is usually burnt in stoves, and because those stoves are usually more efficient than those which burn wood, it may in fact be nearly as energy-efficient to use charcoal as it is to use fuelwood. Production is therefore only one aspect of the charcoal industry and overall efficiency depends on a whole chain of operations from wood harvesting to use.

Casamance earth kiln is an appropriate technology for charcoal making developed in Senegal. Horizontally stacked wood at the base allows circulation to a metal chimney made from three oil drums - the only item requiring investment ($75)

a sand
b grass and straw
c air inlets
d chimney
e tar condensate pipe

An FAO project in Benin is aimed at satisfying some of the urban energy needs in the south of the country with charcoal production from forests farther north, using mobile charcoal kilns. But in projects such as these, where huge quantities of wood are being carbonized, it is obviously important to produce the charcoal as efficiently as possible. Many of the traditional methods of making charcoal use an earth pit, the wood being covered with grass, brushwood and then loose earth. Yields are only 15 to 20 per cent by weight. The carbonization cycle takes 20-30 days and so charcoal makers tend to earn very little. In some countries portable metal kilns are now being introduced which increase efficiency considerably and speed up the cycle to only 3 4 days. But they cost around $5000 and most charcoal makers are unable to repair or maintain them. Because of this, many producers return to earth pits unless organizations are created to help them finance repairs and replacements. Brick kilns appear to be a more efficient and reliable technology.

In Senegal, however, an FAO project has produced encouraging results from an appropriate technology charcoal technique, based on the earth pit. Known as the Casamance earth kiln (after the area in which it was first developed), it differs from the traditional technique in that the wood is stacked on a circular platform of logs and a metal chimney, consisting of three oil drums welded together, is provided. Yield is 24-36 per cent by weight, equivalent to about 50 per cent on an energy basis. Carbonization time is cut by two-thirds and the only cost is about $75 for the chimney.

The consumer is the one who benefits - or should benefit when a stove capable of burning either fuelwood or charcoal efficiently is used instead of an open fire. FAO has been active in this area since 1961 when it introduced its first stove project in Indonesia. Since then, it has been involved in stove projects in many other countries.

A Honduran farmer's wife cooks beans on a clay stove in the open air. Stoves like these can be made for $10 or less and may reduce fuel consumption by 30 per cent

It is often claimed that stoves can reduce the amount of fuel needed for cooking by up to 50 per cent, though 30 per cent might be a more realistic figure. This is because the efficiency of open fires is thought to be only 5-10 per cent.

There has been a renewed interest in stoves since the development of the Lorena stove in Guatemala, a project which for the first time seemed to break the price deadlock. In developing countries, stoves are only really useful if they are so cheap ($ 10 or less) that they can be afforded by everyone. The Lorena stove is named from the Spanish words 'loco' meaning mud end 'arena' meaning sand. A stove which is built entirely of mud and sand, with the exception of one or two metal dampers, should be within the economic reach of almost everyone. Similar stoves called 'Ban ak Suuf' - again the local words for mud and sand - are being introduced in Senegal.

One of the problems is that this type of stove does not last long - on average 1-2 years. With use, it gradually crumbles and loses efficiency. Clearly, more research is needed into stoves which are cheap and durable.

There is now some evidence that traditional cooking systems such as the open fire need careful re-evaluation. For instance, many rural families are in real need of lighting and cannot afford kerosene. They use an open fire to provide light, as well as heat and a means of cooking and heating water. A stove provides no light. Further, women who use an open fire can draw on a long tradition of managing the fire in such a way as to burn fuel as efficiently as possible and to make maximum use of this system's flexibility and adaptability.

On the other hand, it is clear that a stove can improve the domestic environment quite dramatically. Ridding the atmosphere of smoke and improving ventilation are two major advantages. Another is that there are fewer burns from stoves than from open fires. Where space heating is important, there is no doubt that the improved energy-efficiency of a stove can produce major savings in fuel consumption. For all these reasons, where the stove is an appropriate solution there is a need to disseminate knowledge of the technology involved very widely.

Senegalese women making the 'Ban ak Suuf - mud and sand stove. The drawings are based on originals by an African artist involved in the wood stove programme

Finding substitutes for fuelwood

If it is seldom possible to find substitutes for fuelwood, it is becoming easier to find supplements for wood energy: biogas or solar energy in one form or another, fossil fuels (particularly kerosene) and of course agricultural residues. Generally, it is better to use the latter as a feed for a biogas plant than to burn it directly because fermentation will produce an improved fertilizer while the fertilizing value of waste which is burnt is usually lost.

Fuelwood substitutes or supplements are an important part of any national fuelwood plan. If fuelwood shortages are very severe, it may be necessary to introduce supplements in the form of fossil fuels on a temporary basis, until new plantations, for example, begin to yield a crop. Many nations have acquired experience of subsidizing a fossil fuel in urban areas to relieve pressure on rural supplies.

India has tried subsidizing the use of coal and kerosene in towns and cities, and reduced fuelwood and charcoal consumption as a result. Attempts have been made to introduce butane in urban areas in Senegal, though with less success. Gambia has banned both the production and the use of charcoal. The Republic of Korea has pressed on with rural electrification. As a result of this and other actions, fuelwood consumption fell from 55 per cent of total energy consumption in 1966 to only 19 per cent in 1979.

One problem is that it is hard to introduce substitutes for domestic fuel if, as is often the case, housewives are attached to the traditional fuels and cannot afford the cost of either the substitute fuel or the equipment needed to use it. But there may be an alternative. Many rural industries, such as brick making, pottery firing and tobacco drying, consume large amounts of fuelwood and can be more easily persuaded to change to a fossil fuel than the average housewife; indeed, there may be other advantages in making the change, such as increased efficiency and better control of process heat.

An Ethiopian woman cooks 'n'jera', the national Ethiopian dish, on a cooker fed with biogas. Biogas plants may well be worth installing simply for the extra fertilizer they provide - the gas can often be considered as a free bonus

Nepal: A case study

A successful fuelwood programme is currently taking place in Nepal. A joint government/World Bank/UNDP/FAO project, it illustrates how the fuelwood tactics just discussed must be combined with strong government action, institution building, training and research if such projects are to succeed.

In 1977 the government passed legislation to encourage the panchayats - the clusters of villages which represent the smallest administrative units in Nepal - to manage their local forests. Two types of forest were created: panchayat forests (PF) which were essentially waste land requiring replanting, and panchayat protected forests (PPF) which needed only protection and management.

With the way thus open for communal forestry to re-establish itself in Nepal, attention was given to the necessary institution-building and training which would be needed to provide the back-up to communal action. A Community Forestry and Afforestation Division was established within the Forestry Department. This Division had specific responsibilities for selecting the species to be planted, running the nurseries that were needed, providing training and extension services, and monitoring and evaluating the programme as it progressed. At the same time training facilities were expanded to provide the additional foresters needed, and forestry research was considerably strengthened.

Three of the five fuelwood tactics are being used in Nepal to increase forest cover and improve the efficiency with which the fuelwood is burnt:

1. The productivity of existing resources is being increased by getting the panchayats to protect and put under management some 39100 ha of PPF.

2. New resources are being created in two ways: by planting 11750 ha of PF, and by providing 900 000 saplings for private planting. This part of the project involves setting up nurseries in each of the 340 hill panchayats which are involved in the project.

3. Conversion technologies are being improved by disseminating locally developed clay and ceramic stoves. The aim is to introduce 15 000 stoves which should save fuelwood equivalent to the annual requirements of 4000 households (25 000 tonnes of firewood a year).

The project is succeeding through a combination of training, education, extension and demonstration work which is, in effect, informing nearly everyone in the hills of the possibilities of the programme. Furthermore, the mechanisms exist for turning villagers into the forest watchers and guards that are needed and for providing the community forestry assistants to help the villagers work out what to do.

The five-year project will cost $24.8 million. Eventually, it should provide roughly one-third the fuelwood requirements of 570 000 people and sufficient leaf fodder for 132 000 cattle. Agricultural production will also be increased because less dung and crop waste will be used as fuel. According to one estimate, as much as 156000 tonnes of grain a year will be saved, nearly one-third the total production of the hill region.

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