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5. Conclusions and recommendations

The alarming increase in energy consumption, particularly in developing countries, predicted at the beginning of the last decade, did not occur. Instead, the energy consumption growth rate of the developing countries fell by approximately 50% during the decade. The rate of destruction of forests, however, is continuing.

The alarming woodfuel deficit situation predicted for many developing countries in 1981 did not occur either. Available data for a woodfuel balance are totally inadequate to work out useful balances. However, some properly calculated woodfuel balances, taking into account other sources of fuelwood, may in fact suggest the absence of a deficit situation, at least for most rural household needs. There is a need for further studies to determine the true fuelwood situation. In general, the problems of fuelwood deficit are location specific and some areas, for instance, densely populated and arid areas, are particularly susceptible to a fuelwood deficit and require more attention. Although a widespread fuelwood crisis may be questionable, especially in the rural areas, there is overwhelming evidence to show that deforestation and desertification are prevalent in the developing countries and that there actually is an environmental crisis.

Woodfuel production and consumption statistics indicate that woodfuel supplies have essentially remained constant in order of magnitude over the years; not only in developing countries, but throughout the world.

The lack of reliable woodfuel consumption data makes it difficult to assess the changes that have occurred in consumption. Nevertheless, the data available suggest that there has been little change in the consumption patterns of the developing countries in terms of per capita consumption and the proportion of woodfuel contribution.

The new considerations about the environmental consequences of wood energy raise three concerns. One is the exposure, particularly of women, to the toxic smoke emissions from cookstoves. Intervention here can take the form of improved stoves, education on proper cooking practice and the importance of chimneys. Secondly, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions provides further impetus for the developing countries to develop wood energy. However, it has to be done in a sustainable manner. Finally, higher investments required for advanced, less-polluting wood energy technologies may be a constraint to their implementation in the developing countries.

While there are many socio-economic factors that constrain progress in implementation of various technologies in the developing countries, the most significant is the devastating linkage between poverty, poor economic and technological performance, borrowing, social decay and environmental deterioration. There is a need for international actions aiming at alleviating the problems of poverty and underdevelopment suffered by developing countries.

There are many other general constraints to the implementation of wood energy technologies in developing countries. The most significant may very well be the lack of transfer of technologies in a sustainable manner, due to the lack of adequate involvement of local industries, and of research and teaching institutions. Cooperative research projects, preferably based in the developing countries, should be encouraged. Internationally supported research and implementation projects should only be carried out jointly with suitable local institutions on equal footing.

The activities of the donor organizations have been varied and in general extensive, covering most possible interventions, and have been using a wide range of methods, strategies and approaches, most of which were in line with new thinking. Of the categories of interventions, forestry/agroforestry, stoves and charcoal production have received the greatest attention to date. Rural industries have yet to receive the desired recognition.

The NPA has proved to be an excellent framework for the development of activities aimed at tackling the major wood energy problems identified. The specialized organizations of the United Nations system, as well as international agencies of donor countries and NGOs, have played an active role in achieving the NPA objectives. Most of the problems mentioned in the NPA have been addressed, and some activities have been undertaken in every specific objective adopted by the NPA.

Still, today there is no abundance of flourishing energy plantations, nor are there millions of improved cooking stoves, or thousands of gasifiers generating electricity under decentralized units in rural communities. But, considerable national and international capabilities have been created and a critical mass of experts has been trained since the NPA.

This situation is in part due to the fact that many of the activities undertaken during the first part of the 1980s decade were seriously affected by the reduction of international fossil fuel prices which occurred in the second half of the 80's. Thus, when oil prices started to fall, many of the new and improved fuelwood and charcoal technologies which had been developed became less competitive and were abandoned.

Besides, the impact of the wide variety of actions, projects and activities undertaken to improve the wood energy situation in developing countries has been insufficient for the magnitude and the importance of the problems to be solved.

Fuelwood and charcoal are and will remain for the decade to come a major source of energy for developing countries. It is a delicate, complicated and important subject which is part of the problem of poverty and underdevelopment affecting third world countries.

Wood energy problems should be overcome following a more holistic approach and not looked upon from an energy or forestry point of view alone. They require a wider approach in which the solutions should be tailored to cope with the specific needs of the region, country or community involved; an approach where all the aspects from wood supply and fuelwood/charcoal use are considered, including socio-economic and environmental aspects.

Priority areas for future action

Wood fuels will remain the main source of energy for most developing countries for the coming decade. Furthermore, taking into consideration the environmental concern raised by the international community on unbalanced CO2 emission from the massive combustion of fossil fuels, forest biomass is again called upon to play an important role in reducing the greenhouse effect and acid rain for developed countries.

It is under these two aspects: as an energy source in the poorest sectors of developing countries and as a sound environmental source of energy to fight against greenhouse and acid rain effects in developed countries that forest biomass has to be developed in the future.

Consequently, the MAIN OBJECTIVES of the NEW PROGRAMME OF ACTION FOR WOOD ENERGY to be initiated are:

a) to promote concerted action by the international community to assist developing countries in their energy transition where their forest biomass plays a key role in fostering their economic development and improving the welfare of their populations.

b) to develop sustainable wood energy systems for developed and developing countries to meet the energy needs of the communities as a way of reducing the unbalanced emission of CO2 and so fight greenhouse and acid rain effects.

The POLICY AREAS for concerted action in the future can be categorized according to the NPA scheme which is still valid.

Assessment and planning:

- maintain monitoring and assessment of forest resources for woodfuel production;

- carry out wood fuel surveys at local, regional and national level to assess wood energy situation;

- undertake market studies of supply and demand of fuelwood/charcoal;

- introduce wood energy in the national energy programmes and balances;

- incorporate wood energy aspects into national statistics;

- assess environmental and socio-economic aspects;

- implement wood energy planning exercises at decentralized and national level;

- establish national wood energy policies and programmes;

- create adequate multidisciplinary institutions or working groups needed to manage wood energy matters;

- support the development of decentralized and integrated wood energy systems using rural communities as a center of development to ensure sustainable production, supply and use of fuelwood/charcoal;

- involve local institutions and NGO's and ensure people's participation in wood energy projects;

- introduce more activities for gender analysis and women's participation;

- adjust legislative and financial aspects to promote and encourage the rational and efficient use of wood energy.

Research, development and demonstration:

- undertake research activities on suitable local and high yield species for fuelwood/charcoal production and use;

- implement demonstration units of decentralized wood energy systems;

- continue the research and development (R & D) activities on improved wood energy conversion devices for households, but particularly for rural industries and village applications;

- assess and monitor health and environmental aspects of use of wood fuels;

- develop suitable fuelwood/charcoal substitutes.

Transfer, adaptation and application of mature technologies:

- improve and increase activities for management of existing forest plantations, particularly for arid and semi-arid areas;

- continue with the development and dissemination of community forestry projects, taking a more holistic approach, not only for tree plantations but also for its utilization;

- disseminate improved wood energy conversion devices for household, rural industries and village applications and for small enterprises;

- promote and establish large multipurpose plantations;

- promote improved charcoal production systems;

- encourage the use of forest residues for power and heat production in forest industries and remote rural communities with steam engines and/or gasifiers;

- promote the substitution of fuelwood/charcoal by alternative fuels, particularly for households in urban areas;

- promote in certain industries the substitution of fossil fuels by fuelwood/charcoal;

- carry out and implement wood energy conservation audits.

Education and training:

- carry out training activities for policy makers and technicians on wood and rural energy planning, and execution of wood energy surveys;

- continue with training activities for the implementation of improved wood energy and charcoal systems;

- incorporate subjects on wood energy at university level;

- train people, especially operators, in wood energy aspects of production, marketing and use;

- instruct fuelwood/charcoal users on more efficient and improved practices of wood energy conversion;

- organize information campaigns on different aspects of wood energy for interested people and the public in general.

Information flows:

- strengthen existing cooperative networks and increase activities in exchange of information, data and experiences within the framework of TCDC;

- encourage North-South and South-South dialogue on wood energy matters;

- improve statistics and data bases at national and regional levels.

Areas for special consideration:

Adequate institutional mechanisms at national and international level were highly recommended in the NPA for the mobilization and coordination of all the resources required for the adoption of sound wood energy policies and their implementation. Unfortunately, the inadequacy of existing institutions has been one of the main constraints in the realization of many wood energy activities. It is now clear that no single institution is capable enough to cope with wood energy aspects. Considerable work therefore remains to be done in this field.

The TFAP constitutes an excellent tool for the sectoral review, assessment and monitoring of wood energy activities. Therefore, a more active participation in TFAP exercises for the identification of wood energy problems, and the involvement of different public and private sectors, is envisaged to improve the awareness of national and international authorities on fuelwood/charcoal and to develop more coordinated action.

The Committee for the Development and Utilization of NRSE which was created to guide and monitor the implementation of the NPA, even though it has had an active role during the decade, has proved to be insufficient to achieve the goals set by the Nairobi Conference.

Therefore, an ad hoc "Working Group" on Wood Energy is essential within the Committee for the Development and Utilization of NRSE to provide interagency coordination and interdisciplinary and cross sectoral programmes, and to monitor progress on wood energy matters.

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