Table of Contents Next Page


The United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy which met in Nairobi Kenya in August 1981, adopted the "Nairobi Programme of Action". The Programme provided a framework for concerted action in the development and utilization of new and renewable sources of energy to meet future overall requirements, particularly those of the developing countries. The Conference identified five broad policy areas for action: energy assessment and planning; research, development and demonstration; transfer, adaptation and application of mature technologies; information flows; and education and training.

In August 1991, almost exactly ten years after the Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, an Intergovernmental Expert Group Meeting was convened in New York to assess the results of the initiatives undertaken in pursuit of the objectives of the Nairobi Programme of Action (by national, regional and international organizations) and to recommend priorities for future actions.

The Expert Group Meeting was organized by the Committee for the Development and Utilization of New and Renewable Sources of Energy, created by the 1981 Nairobi Conference to guide and monitor the implementation of the Nairobi Programme of Action. The Committee entrusted FAO with preparation of a review of the activities carried out on fuelwood and charcoal during the past decade. This publication is the output of the FAO review.

Prepared by a team of international experts (H. Stassen, P.J. Svenningsson and M.J. Demante), coordinated by FAO Senior Forestry Officer M A. Trossero, the paper affirms that the policy areas identified by the Nairobi Plan of Action were and continue to be valid; but despite the fact that activities aimed at increased production and improved efficiency in use of wood fuels have received a great deal of support, the results achieved have not met expectations. Many of the activities undertaken in the early 1980s in the context of high international fossil fuel prices proved economically untenable and were abandoned when oil prices started to fall in the second half of the decade. Inadequate institutional structures were also a major constraint to the realization of many wood energy activities at the national level.

The review confirms that fuelwood and charcoal will continue to be the main source of energy for most developing countries during the current decade, and therefore merit renewed attention. Moreover, the report emphasizes the potential of forest biomass as an environmentally sound source of energy in the developed countries. Perhaps most importantly, the report stresses that wood energy challenges cannot be resolved from an energy or forestry point-of-view alone. They require a holistic approach in which activities are tailored to the specific and multi-faceted needs of the region, country or community involved, including socio-economic and environmental aspects.

This paper is recommended to all those involved in activities concerned with wood-based energy as a valuable contribution to the more effective development of the sector.

C.H. Murray
Assistant Director-General
FAO Forestry Department

Top of Page Next Page