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Chapter III - Overall picture of the fuelwood situation in the developing countries

3.1 Fuelwood production
3.2 Fuelwood in rural energy systems
3.3 Evolution of the overall fuelwood situation
3.4 Special regional characteristics

Before describing specific regional situations, the aim of this chapter is to sketch an overall picture and call attention to the general characteristics of the importance of fuelwood and its derivative, charcoal, as a source of energy in the developing countries. Is there any need to point out that only during the last two centuries has wood gradually ceased to be the fuel most used throughout the world? The replacement of wood by fossil fuels with a high energy content and easier to manipulate played an important role in the industrial revolution. Wood, therefore, plays only a marginal role in the energy supplies of the industrial countries, except in certain rural areas. But this is not the case in developing countries, where the vast majority of the people continue to depend on the fuel to which they traditionally have access: fuelwood. Up to the middle of the seventies it was possible to believe that fuelwood, particularly if it became scarce, would be more or less automatically replaced by fossil fuels. Since then, however, owing to the increase in the price of the latter, the conditions for such a substitution have become much more difficult and the fuelwood shortages which are occurring in many parts of the Third World have thus become much more serious. When wood becomes scarce, agricultural and animal waste is used as a supplement or substitute. When all the immediately accessible traditional fuels become scarcer, minimum energy needs for such essential purposes as cooking food and heating the home can no longer be covered; and those who suffer most directly from such situations are the poorest, and the weakest of the poor: the children, the old and the women.

This study is the first attempt to ascertain the seriousness and extent of this other energy crisis, that of fuelwood. The shortage of fuelwood is not linked to the growing scarcity of other sources of energy and its impact, as will be seen, goes far beyond the single problem of energy supplies. In order to put the fuelwood crisis in its real perspective, we shall analyse in this chapter the importance of fuelwood through official statistics for both forestry and energy, the place of fuelwood in rural energy systems, and finally the trends in situations in the developing world as they emerge from an analysis of the results of the work carried out in connection with this study.

3.1 Fuelwood production

According to the data available to FAO, which have recently been subjected to critical review, fuelwood production represented. 5.4% of world energy consumption in 1978: 15 x 10- TJ as against a total energy consumption of 257 x 106 TJ. At world level, therefore, wood is by far the most used renewable source of energy, coming just after oil, coal and gas. As regards the volume extracted, fuelwood is the most important product of the world's forest resources, because in 1978 it represented almost 60 percent of the total volume extracted for the world as a whole. And this refers only to fuelwood properly so-called, i.e. excluding industrial residues recycled in the industry itself for the production of energy, such as recycling of the waste from the manufacture of paper pulp.

In the developing countries the biomass in its traditional solid form (fuelwood and agricultural residues) represents a considerable, and often insufficiently recognized proportion of the total energy supply. In 1978 fuelwood alone accounted for more than a fifth of the total energy consumption of the developing countries, although consumption by country varied widely according to the extent of the forest resources available and existence or otherwise of fossil energy sources; and fuelwood production reached 1 421 million m³, or 85 percent of the total amount of roundwood used in the developing countries. Since international trade in fuelwood is negligible or circumscribed to geographically very limited transfers, national fuelwood consumption is held to be equivalent to production. Some countries, particularly in Africa, are almost entirely dependent on fuelwood as a source of energy: a total of 21 countries, of which 16 belong to the group of least developed countries, depend for more than three-quarters of their energy consumption on fuelwood.

For some ten years now, energy consumption in the developing countries has been increasing at an annual rate of about 7 percent, and fuelwood consumption at about 2 percent, according to estimates. Bat although total energy consumption has continued to increase at a rate slightly below 7 percent since 1974, there has been a considerable slowing down in several countries and regions: in Africa, for example, with the exception of Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Nigeria, the growth in energy consumption has been only 3.5 percent a year. In conclusion, it is probable that the relative dependence on fuelwood of the developing countries as a whole is decreasing owing to greater use of commercial fuels: but this dependence remains considerable, particularly, as will be seen, in the rural areas. The more rapid increase in world energy consumption is essentially linked, in fact, to the growth of the transport and industry sectors, while domestic energy consumption continues to depend mainly on traditional fuels.

In national statistics, the fuelwood and charcoal production is assessed on the basis of the forestry data available, supplemented if necessary by estimates. But considerable amounts of fuelwood are also collected outside the actual forest lands, on uncultivated land or in rural areas, and are not accurately assessed. In many countries the data available are at best estimates or extrapolations based on partial consumption studies. In few cases do systematic surveys make it possible to know the present consumption of fuelwood and its trends, the importance of the various sources of supply, the respective share of the various sectors in consumption, and the relationship between consumption and economic and social level. Fuelwood is essentially used locally, without being transported over long distances and without passing through the commercial channels which form the object of official statistical inquiries. Despite its obvious importance, fuelwood rarely appears in national energy statistics, which usually mention only the conventional commercial fuels. Despite considerable recent progress, considerable gaps remain in information on fuelwood production. It is essential that systematic efforts be made to improve the quality and coverage of this information in a way that corresponds to the real importance of this source of energy and in order to incorporate this information in national energy balances.

There is a particular shortage of information on supplies and consumption of agricultural residues, the other fuel widely used as an addition to or direct substitute for fuelwood, particularly in Asia. In most countries only estimates based on agricultural production data are possible. But in a few countries, such as India, detailed studies have made it possible to determine precisely the importance of agricultural residues and dung in energy consumption.

3.2 Fuelwood in rural energy systems

Fuelwood plays a major role in supplying energy to the rural masses and the poorest groups in the towns. Fuelwood occupies a special place in rural energy systems owing to the importance of the domestic consumption for which it is mainly used and the fact that it is produced within the system itself. This reflects the extent of the demand for warmth in the traditional rural energy system as compared with that for propulsive energy. Wood is the fuel customarily preferred by rural people both because its decentralized method of production is suited to the scattered nature of rural habitation and usually makes it possible to obtain the fuel without added cost, and because production can be maintained on the basis of sustained yield and in combination with other goods and services. Fuel-wood is thus pre-eminently a renewable source of energy whose decentralized nature is particularly suited to the characteristics of rural energy systems. In a rural community, the energy system reflects an integrated structure of relationships between resources and activities, and the role of fuelwood must be seen. as a complex function with many connections with the land tenure and land use systems, agricultural practices, the machinery for allocating resources, social structures, etc. The main characteristics of fuelwood in rural energy systems are outlined below.

Domestic requirements, essentially for cooking food and heating the homes, usually account for the biggest percentage of overall energy consumption in the developing countries. This is even more marked for rural populations and poor households. Fuelwood is usually the fuel preferred by rural people, who have very little access to other forms of energy. Wood, therefore, plays an essential role in meeting elementary energy requirements connected with the very subsistence of these people. In addition to its renewable and decentralized nature, fuelwood can be gathered and used by simple techniques, without recourse to expensive equipment and is, therefore, particularly suited to the requirements and possibilities of its users. Minimum energy requirements for cooking and heating may be estimated at 6 - 10 GJ, or 0.5 - 1 m³ of fuelwood per person per year, under present conditions; considerable variations are possible according to cooking habits, climate, way of life and social structure, and also the efficiency of the cooking equipment. If account is taken of the amount of heating necessary in cold mountain climates, total energy requirements for domestic purposes may reach 25 to 30 GJ, the equivalent of about 3 m3 of wood, per person per year. Seasonal climatic variations, the nature of the wood and its availability may considerably modify effective consumption levels.

In addition to its main role in satisfying domestic energy requirements, fuelwood is also an important fuel for many rural industries: drying tea and tobacco, smoking fish, brick - making, lime kilns, smithies, potteries and various village handicrafts. Consumption levels may vary greatly: in Tanzania, for example, it is estimated that 50 m³ of fuelwood are necessary to dry the yield of one hectare of tobacco ; elsewhere, it is estimated that 2 kg of wood are necessary to produce 1 kg of cane sugar. Industries may consume considerable amounts of fuelwood, thus adding to domestic demand in these same rural areas. Recent developments and the difficulty of obtaining commercial fuel supplies have prompted rural industries in some countries to turn to wood, or to retain it as their main, if not sole fuel, where encouraged by local supply possibilities or induced by government efforts to limit the effects of energy consumption on the trade balance.

The use of fuelwood in rural areas for domestic purposes or village industries often still forms part of traditional subsistence economy systems. The wood is usually gathered by the women and children for the family's own needs in the immediate vicinity of the home, Gathering the family's energy supply is an essential chore which may occupy a considerable part of the working day. In many cases, owing precisely to the presence of the rural population, there are no real forest resources in the immediate vicinity. Fuelwood is then collected from the woody vegetation scattered throughout the area: isolated trees, shrubs, the yield from pruning fruit trees, etc. When demand increases and resources become less accessible, a current of activity usually develops that generates employment and income: some of the country people devote themselves to collecting, transporting and distributing fuelwood to the villages and towns. This current of activity may reach considerable proportions. It has been calculated that millions of work-days are invested in supplying towns and villages in the Sahel: for example, just to supply the town of Bamako in 1978 involved 500 000 work - days simply to cut the wood, and a cash movement of US$7 million. This shows both the importance that fuelwood provisioning may have for employment in rural areas, and the conversion of fuelwood from a material available to everyone free of charges to a product with a cash value and price. This latter aspect is symptomatic of growing supply problems, but also of a change of attitude of which advantage could be taken in seeking solutions and in using fuelwood in a process of development.

The contribution of fuelwood as a source of energy is not limited to rural energy systems or to subsistence sectors. In many countries urban areas account for an increasing share of fuelwood consumption, owing both to the migration of country people who conserve a rural way of life, and to the dependence of the poorest families, who continue to rely on wood for their domestic needs. Fuelwood then often tends to be replaced by its derivative, charcoal, which is easy to transport, store and use, but the production of which entails considerable loss of the energy contained in the raw material. In the absence of control, urban demand signifies a concentration of consumption leading not only to localized over - cutting of resources around the town, but also to diversion to the town of supplies indispensable for the people living in rural areas; the effects are felt for more than 100 km around the towns, and the distance is constantly increasing. Urban demand for fuelwood, therefore, may also constitute an important factor in disrupting rural energy supplies.

Since rural energy systems form part of a complex whole, the growing difficulty of obtaining sufficient fuelwood has serious repercussions of all kinds. First, it results in people who do not have access to any other sources of energy having to devote an increasing proportion of their limited time and money to obtaining the supply they need. This results in accelerated over-cutting of the remaining woody vegetation, which may even lead to its complete disappearance, and adds to all the other factors contributing to its degradation: bush fires, grazing, clearing for the introduction of new crops, periods of adverse climatic conditions. In extreme cases the consequences for the environment may be irreparable and endanger people's very existence{ it is known what effect deforestation has on fragile ecological areas, such as arid zones and mountains, as a result of desertification or erosion. Deforestation itself is often the result of clearing the land for new crops, even modern monocultural systems. When trees disappear from the countryside, and with them the possibility of obtaining fuelwood, the people have recourse to agricultural residues and animal waste, the only fuel to which it still has access. In some cases it has been calculated that the amounts annually burnt instead of being dug into the soil are equivalent to considerable amounts of fertilizer needed to maintain soil fertility. If loss of agricultural productivity is to be aboided, recourse to mineral fertilizers is necessary, but this increases dependence on fossil fuels for energy. The alternative is to use oil or gas as a fuel; and this, assuming that the rural user is able to procure them, will add to national requirements for fossil fuels. Ultimately the shortage of fuelwood has two consequences throughout the rural energy system: dependence on substitute fuels imported from outside the system, and greater recourse to fertilizers to compensate for the fertilizing elements not returned to the soil. Should the situation be left to deteriorate without intervention, it has a direct effect on nutrition, owing to the impossibility of cooking food properly, and an indirect effect on the food supply, owing to the decrease in agricultural productivity. The impact is all the more marked in the more fragile ecological areas and on the poorest sectors of the population.

When the situation has not reached an irreversible state, it is technically and economically feasible at least to preserve or restore fuelwood's contribution to the basic energy supply necessary for the subsistence of the rural population. It may even be possible to increase this contribution and thus help to provide the extra energy needed for this population's development. The various possibilities are covered in the last chapter of this document.

In concluding this section on the importance of fuelwood in rural energy systems, attention must be drawn to the role played by this fuel in meeting such essential energy needs as cooking, heating and rural industries in the developing countries. Its growing scarcity is making it more difficult for a great many people to subsist and is breaking up their energy system; in extreme cases it is upsetting the balance of the environment as a result of deforestation and the cutting of all woody vegetation. The problem of fuelwood thus has three important dimensions: forestry, energy and environment. That is why its role in rural energy systems must be clearly perceived as a problem not only of subsistence but also of development.

3.3 Evolution of the overall fuelwood situation

3.3.1 Acute scarcity situations
3.3.2 Deficit situations
3.3.3 Prospective deficit situations
3.3.4 Recapitulation

The survey showed that in 1980 some 2 thousand million people, or three-quarters of the population of the developing countries, had a traditional-type energy consumption and hence depended on fuelwood and other solid components of the biomass to meet their daily domestic energy requirements. Bat of these people dependent on traditional fuels, 1 160 million, or more than half, were unable to meet their minimum energy requirements from available fuelwood resources without compromising future supplies: demand has grown faster than supply and in certain cases even over-cutting of the resources does not suffice to guarantee the minimum amounts needed. Table 2 gives a regional synthesis of. the analysis of populations in a deficit situation.

3.3.1 Acute scarcity situations

It is estimated that in 1980 more than 96 million in the three continents were living in a situation of acute energy shortage: over-cutting of the woody vegetation, or what remains of it, and where possible the use of agricultural residues, did not suffice to meet minimum requirements and consumption was, therefore, inevitably below the minimum required. The most serious situations were identified in: the arid and semi-arid zones south of the Sahara, the eastern and south-eastern parts of the continent, the mountainous areas and the islands in Africa; the Himalaya region in Asia, and the Andean plateau, the arid zones along the Pacific coast and the densely populated areas of Central America and the Caribbean in Latin America, These situations are characterized either by high levels of demand owing to severe climatic conditions, or by relatively high population density in rural areas in difficult ecological zones where the productivity of the fuelwood resources is low. The total annual deficit of fuelwood has been estimated at 95 million m³, or 1 m³ per inhabitant per year; only a small proportion of the minimum needs is covered. In all these situations the fuelwood crisis endangers the development potential; incidence on the nutrition and health of populations who are not able to cook their food and protect themselves from the cold; disproportionate amount of time and money devoted to procuring fuel; maximum use of residues for combustion and consequence of this, added to erosion caused by deforestation, on soil productivity} resulting tendency to clear more land for cultivation in zones usually even more fragile. It may therefore be stated without exaggeration that the areas identified really are in an emergency situation, the acute scarcity of fuelwood generating an energy shortage whose extent and consequences necessitate immediate and massive interventions. Forestry solutions are indispensable both to resolve the energy problem and to restore and protect a productive environment, but they will be insufficient, at least in the short term, to make up the deficits and restore energy supplies to the level of minimum needs. Any strategy for these acute scarcity situations must therefore necessarily include complementary emergency measures to ensure minimum energy supplies in the short term, including even the subsidized provision of additional fuel throughout the period required for the introduction of lasting solutions.

Analysis of the evolution of these situations produces an even more disturbing picture: it is estimated that by 2000 population growth will have brought the numbers dependent on fuelwood in these areas up to more than 150 million. On the basis of recent trends observed in deforestation and of plantation programmes foreseen for the coming years, extrapolated to the year 2000, it is to be feared that the annual fuelwood deficit will reach 160 million m³, resulting in aggravation of the deficit per inhabitant. The actions planned at present are, therefore, insufficient even to avoid further deterioration of the situation identified in 1980.

3.3.2 Deficit situations

The number of people in a deficit situation in 1980 is estimated at 1 052 million. These populations are able to meet their minimum needs only by over-cutting and thus endangering their future supplies; renewal of the resource is not ensured. Such situations have been identified in North Africa and the Middle Bast, in the savanna areas in West, Central and Bast Africa, in the Ganges and Indus plains, in certain plains and islands of South-Bast Asia, and in the semi-arid populated areas and the Andean zones in Latin America. In Asia alone more than 700 million people are involved. These situations are characterized by great diversity, but usually concern relatively populated zones where the ecological conditions are fairly favourable to forest resources but where the relative density of the rural populations subjects these resources to pressures which considerably exceed the available supply, resulting in deficit situations. The overall deficit in 1980 is evaluated at about 350 million m³, or 0.3 m³ per inhabitant per year: almost two-thirds of this deficit is connected with situations identified in Asia.

Owing to the big population growth in most of these zones, and to clearing of land for cultivation, the situation is deteriorating rapidly. But forestry solutions are possible in view of the relatively favourable ecological conditions. These solutions should form an integral part of rural development and be based on active participation by the people in protecting and managing their fuelwood resources. They must give priority to mixed agricultural-forestry system, intercropping, rural woodlots, community forests, etc.

Analysis of present trends, though, arouses fear that the deficit situations may worsen, and that some may end in acute scarcity before the year 2000. Taking into account the number of people dependent on fuelwood in 1980, the zones in a deficit situation might involve 1 782 million people in 2000, 1 149 million in Asia alone. It is difficult to identify the specific situations which may develop into acute scarcity, but the overall deficit might rise from 350 million m³ in 1980 to 710 million m³, i.e. double in twenty years. The average deficit per inhabitant may grow by 0.4 m³/year. This calculation is based on present trends in deforestation and probable rates of plantation. For this category of situations too, the action projected at the moment is insufficient even to prevent further deterioration and at least make up for the growth in population.





Acute scarcity


Prospective deficit

Acute scarcity or deficit

Total Population

Rural Population

Total Population

Rural Population

Total Population

Rural Population

Total Population

Rural Population










Near East and North Africa





Asia and Pacific







1 671

1 434

Latin America












1 283

1 052



2 986

2 398

¹ Total population and population with predominantly rural type of energy consumption (total population less that of towns with more than 100 000 inhabitants) in zones whose fuelwood situation has been classified.

N.B.: This table is a revised version of Table 2 in the Report of the Technical panel on Fuelwood and Charcoal.

3.3.3 Prospective deficit situations

Among the zones which had an excess of supply over demand, in 1980, a category of situations has been identified which on The basis of present trends might have to face more or less marked deficits in the year 2000. This category of situations, defined as prospective deficit, concerns some 280 million people dependent on fuelwood in 1980, who might become 464 million by the year 2000 owing to high population growth. From a surplus of supplies over needs of 108 million m³ in 1980, this category might drop to a deficit of about 100 million m³ in the year 2000. This category covers both the appearance of a deficit instead of a surplus, and the rapid degradation of surplus situations; therefore, certain Latin American situations which by the year 2000 will be very close to deficit, without having actually reached it yet, have been grouped under this category.

A number of these prospective deficit situations were marked in 1980 by still relatively abundant forest resources, but also by rapid growth of the rural populations linked particularly to large population movements and hence the clearing and cultivation of new land, leading to a rapid decrease in fuelwood supplies for which penetration and access to new forest resources does not compensate. Appropriate programmes for maintaining fuelwood supplies within the framework of the rural development programmes themselves should make it possible to control these situations; but the action must be undertaken sufficiently far in advance to prevent these situations degenerating to the point where more intensive solutions, more difficult to put into effect, are required.

3.3.4 Recapitulation

The dimensions of the problem and the prospects which emerge from an analysis of fuelwood supplies and requirements in the developing countries show that the concern expressed on this subject in recent years is fully justified.

Out of an approximate total of 2 thousand million people dependent on fuelwood in the developing countries in 1980, 1 148 million, or 57.5 percent, do not have. access to sufficient supplies and of these, 96 million cannot even cover their minimum needs and live in situations marked by acute energy scarcity, with serious social, economic and ecological consequences. For this set of situations, the deficit is estimated at 445 million m³, more than half in Asia alone.

Ertrapolation of present trends in population, deforestation and plantation work produces a picture of a gigantic problem by the year 2000: of some 2.7 thousand million people dependent on traditional fuels for their energy supply, situations of acute scarcity or deficit would involve 2.4 thousand million, or 89%. The deficit might reach nearly one thousand million m³ of fuelwood, equivalent to 9 million GJ per year. In a growing number of situations fuelwood will probably no longer play more than a marginal role unless actions are rapidly intensified on a scale consonant with the size of the problem. Governments might have to organize large-scale emergency programmes in order to helpmeet the minimum energy needs of the populations - needs as essential for their survival as are food and shelter. The cost of such programmes might well endanger the development potential of the countries concerned.

The only zones to escape such a process will be the sparsely inhabited areas which still have immense forest resources, such as the Amazon basin, the basin of the Zaire River, the major islands of South-East Asia, and a small number of zones located in the three continents. Supplies there will remain greatly in excess of local requirements, to the point where the feasibility might be considered of using this potential to supply the neighbouring deficit zones.

The analysis and results presented here as regards the year 2000 are of a purely indicative nature, aimed at prompting reflection on what may happen if no major effort is undertaken. It is probable that the extent and the seriousness of the scarcity in developing countries will force governments and populations to act and to adopt solutions whose impact will have to be monitored. What emerges particularly from this analysis is the magnitude of the task that has to be carried out in order to resolve the energy problem of the populations dependent on fuelwood, whose supplies will henceforth have to be ensured by deliberate action and no longer left to the people to gather as and where they can, thus making it possible for the problem to be ignored.

3.4 Special regional characteristics

It is necessary to complete this overall picture of the fuelwood situation in the developing countries by a few indications of the main characteristics of The regional situations which will be analysed in detail in the following chapters. The survey showed in fact, that there are noticeable differences between the regions with regard to such things as the relative importance of fuelwood, ways of using resources, distribution of population in relation to resources, etc.

Africa south of the Sahara is the region in which dependence on fuelwood is the most marked: between 90 and 98 percent of energy needs in the rural areas are met by fuel - wood, which may also account for more than 90 percent of national energy supplies. Natural woody formations, which provide most of the supplies, seem to be used in a relatively inefficient way, perhaps because they have remained abundant until recent years. Populations are usually concentrated in savanna areas where the ecological conditions are not very favourable to forests. There is often a marked contrast between savanna zones with a big deficit and neighbouring forest zones with a surplus, clearly connected with accessibility and lack of infrastructure. Even in relatively populated zones, fuelwood sources other than the conventional forest ones play only an accessory role: trees seem , in general, to form a less integral part of the rural landscape and cultivation practices than in other regions; the type of farming or of plants grown seems, too, to make available smaller amounts of residue for energy. All these characteristics lead to situations of considerable deficit, particularly in arid and semi-arid zones and mountainous areas, without the number of people involved being very high: big deficits often appear where there are more than 20 inhabitants per km . This reveals the severity of the ecological conditions, but also means that there is scope for forestry solutions by family groups and villagers, of which so far there have been very few. The importance of solutions which combine trees' role as a source of energy and their role as an important factor in rural economy and the stability of the environment must be emphasized.

North Africa and the Middle East present a great diversity of geographical, ecological and economic situations, and hence dependence on fuelwood reflects the existence or absence of a source of supply rather than whether or not the country has fossil fuels. In countries where the ecological conditions make possible a minimum of forest productivity, fuelwood consumption is growing at the same time as the consumption of other sources of energy. This is attributable to the continued dependence of the poorest sectors of the population on fuelwood, and also to a certain preference for this traditional fuel. Despite everything, fuelwood consumption is, with some exceptions, usually limited and wood is not the main fuel: the outstanding fact is the poverty of the groups using fuelwood, who do not have the possibility of acceding to other fuels. Only a few countries with relatively big forest resources are characterized by a marked dependence on wood fuel, and here the deficit as compared with requirements is often considerable. Another characteristic peculiar to this region is the existence of marketing channels, in particular for charcoal, where financial possibilities permit importation of this traditional fuel preferred for certain domestic uses.

Asia is marked above all by two specific characteristics: the size of the populations which are dependent on traditional fuels, and the very complementary role usually played by fuelwood, agricultural residues and animal waste, to the extent that it is difficult to dissociate them. Human settlements have existed here for so long that the people dependent on fuelwood are often concentrated in densely-populated zones far from the forest resources. This makes it difficult to transfer supplies. In this region, therefore, fuelwood supplies from resources other than natural woody formations particularly farm woodlots, are particularly important: trees are often closely associated with cultivation systems and make an appreciable contributions. The diversity of the fuel's used makes it difficult to evaluate the real minimum requirements for fuelwood. In some oases energy consumption is traditionally based on the use of agricultural and animal waste, which cannot, therefore, be considered as an indication of acute scarcity of fuel-wood. The Indian sub-continent, together with certain areas in South-East Asia, is the main problem area as regards fuelwood; a population density of several hundred inhabitants per km², which continues to grow, gives rise to particularly complex rural energy supply problems, difficult to resolve owing to the possible repercussions on closely intertwined systems of energy and agricultural production and on the fragile equilibrium. It is therefore in Asia that the deficit situations appear to be most serious, owing both to the size of the populations concerned and the extent of the deficits, and to the consequences of these deficits on the environment and on the natural resources both in the area concerned and even in the plains downstream.

In Latin America the situations seem more heterogeneous owing to the diversity of ways of life and customs and of physical and human conditions. A considerable proportion of the rural populations no longer uses wood fuel, but this is compensated for by a greater proportion of urban users. Dependence on fuelwood, therefore, remains high over extensive areas. The diversity of situations makes it difficult to estimate and apply parameters of fuelwood supplies and needs. Natural formations obviously play an important role in providing supplies, but the contribution of farm woodlots is more difficult to assess. The region is also marked by the fact that zones of acute scarcity generally coincide with difficult ecological conditions, and are so cut off that it is difficult to transfer supplies from surplus zones. Mention must also be made of the extent of population movements towards newly settled areas and of deforestation in these zones. Finally, it must be added that in Latin America there are big industries using fuelwood and charcoal: it is in this region that the widest use is made of wood fuel for industrial purposes and this often has negative implications for the domestic fuel supply of the rural populations, particularly in Brasil.

This overall picture of the fuelwood situation in the developing countries shows the full extent and seriousness of the problem. Fuelwood plays an essential role in the energy supplies of some 2 thousand million people, who use it mainly for cooking their food; of these some 100 million people cannot procure enough fuel for this elementary energy requirement and more than one thousand million are faced with increasingly acute scarcity. Extrapolation of present trends shows that the populations dependent on fuel-wood who will be facing marked deficits in the year 2000 may double; at the same time the global deficit may reach one thousand million m³. The already serious fuelwood crisis is worsening and very few developing countries will be totally unaffected at the end of the century.

In all regions the impact of the fuelwood problem is particularly severe on low-income groups and within these groups on the most vulnerable members: the children, the old and the women in general: it jeopardizes economic and social development prospects insofar as energy supplies are not covered and the ecological consequences of deforestation affect agricultural productivity. This study aims at arousing sufficient awareness of the problem to prompt the general mobilization of efforts called for by the scale of the problem,

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