Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

8. Conclusions and recommendations

8.1 Conclusions
8.2 Recommendations

8.1 Conclusions

Wood energy from rural supply areas to consumers in Phnom Penh flows through an unregulated and informal system which encompasses many traders. The majority of households, as well as many industries, rely on woodfuels as their main energy source. The study has shown that the demand is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future and suggests that woodfuels are supplied to the urban market in an unsustainable manner. It is clear however that policies related to wood energy can only be successful if they are formed from a good information base which enables a true understanding of the nature of the trade, the people relying on it for their living, the needs of the consumers and their constraints in fuel switching.

Firewood and charcoal comes from forested areas in Kratie, Kampong Thom, Kampong Speu, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang. Since 1970, the forested areas have been greatly reduced due to war, agricultural clearance, construction and logging concessions. Communities within the supply areas reported that forest loss and degradation have been most rapid over the last few years, and the reasons given for this include agricultural clearance and firewood collection. The provision of wood energy is often associated with forest loss, but involvement in the wood energy trade is often a secondary factor and cutting trees to obtain land for agricultural use is the primary factor.

Within the rural areas, most of the wood for local consumption is collected from agricultural land, such as paddy dykes, which suggests that it is the supply to the commercial urban markets which has the greatest impact on the forests. A main issue in these areas was that of land ownership, as it is mostly those without land who are engaged in the trade.

Permanent residents of communities in the supply areas are concerned about the disappearance of the forests, and the environmental impacts relating to this. Some areas have already experienced flooding and drought, and have observed biodiversity loss. Now the quality of wood species is poorer, yet the prices increase due to the increased travel distance to the forest. However, in areas lacking alternative income generating activities, they have little option but to continue with their trade.

Conditions in the supply areas differed according to the community involved in the wood energy trade, living standards within the area, and also their relationship with the relevant provincial forestry department. These factors highlight the requirement for provincial wood energy planning.

Within Phnom Penh, the majority of the population use wood energy for their daily cooking needs. Increased incomes tend to lead to fuel switches, and this was observed in Phnom Penh where there has been a switch to LPG by wealthier households. However, it was also noted that a loss of income, or increased prices, can lead to a return to wood energy consumption. The National Institute of Statistics (1995 and 1997) indicates a decrease in the proportion of households using woodfuels as their main source of energy for cooking but, as is noted by the Department of Energy (MIME 1996c), the demand is likely to remain due to the increased population. However, most households use more than one fuel, and wood energy remains popular within all income groups for traditional dishes and ceremonies.

The growth rate of the population of Phnom Penh is high, and low-income households form the largest sector of the society. Access to energy is determined mainly by incomes, and therefore low-income households use wood energies because they are cheap and can be bought in small quantities.

The demand for wood energy from industry and services is smaller than the demand from households, but industries such as those using brick and tile kilns are likely to continue to require firewood to fire the kilns to meet the needs of the construction industry. Some bakeries were found to be using electricity.

The traders in the urban market are the important link between the suppliers and consumers, and provide an essential service for the population of Phnom Penh. Woodfuels supplied to Phnom Penh are distributed by an array of traders and transporters in the city. The study has illustrated the complexity of the distribution system and the amount of people employed in the urban wood energy markets.

There is increasing competition in Phnom Penh, and the traders rarely appear to make a large profit from their trade. However, in the city there are alternate job opportunities, and in this respect, the urban traders are better-off then their rural counterparts.

The study shows a little over 95,000 steres of firewood and almost 24,000 tonnes of charcoal entering Phnom Penh each year. However, it was also found that some of this amount is sold on to forest-poor provinces, which highlights Phnom Penh's role as a trading centre for wood energy. Although this appears to account only for a small amount of woodfuels at present, it is unlikely to decrease whilst neighbouring provinces have no other forms of supply, and it is an important consideration for wood energy planners.

Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly popular in the country, as wealthier households switch to LPG for cooking, and electricity becomes more available in urban areas for lighting and powering appliances. Although LPG and electricity are cleaner and more convenient to use, the levels of carbon dioxide emitted during their use contribute to global warming. At the moment, electricity in Cambodia is generated from oil which, along with LPG, is a finite energy source. Wood, on the other hand is renewable and indigenous, and provides other forest products and environmental stability.

Wood energy planning is addressed by the policies of the Department of Energy and the Department of Forestry. The Department of Forestry has responsibility for the supply of wood energy, and this is done through firewood coupes. These areas of forest are not successful at the moment because they are uncompetitive in an urban market supplied with freely exploited wood. Within rural areas, officials have great difficulty in ensuring their forestry techniques are maintained due to problems with security.

The Department of Energy is responsible for providing a supply of energy to meet the requirements of the end users throughout the country. Plans currently focus on the provision of electricity in order to encourage economic development. However, woodfuels provide over 80% of the total energy supply for Cambodia, and must be addressed in energy planning. Energy demand forecasts will be met from a mix of energy forms, which will include firewood and charcoal. Energy is central to all sectors of the economy and therefore it is a multi-disciplinary field which requires inter-ministerial co-operation. Wood energy planning necessitates a close working relationship between the Department of Energy and the Department of Forestry if the objectives of both departments are to be successfully met.

8.2 Recommendations

Energy policy should promote wood energy planning to achieve its aim of providing energy to all sectors of society. Woodfuels are indigenous and potentially renewable forms of energy, and also provide many other benefits to local communities and the country as a whole.

Within forest policy, wood energy provision must be fully integrated into forest management plans. It is an opportune time for the Department of Forestry to allow the local communities to participate in firewood coupe schemes, whereby the communities in the supply areas could benefit from technical advice to obtain a sustainable source of wood. In return, the Department of Forestry would gain revenue and communities to assist in forest management.

In order for the true costs of extraction to be reflected in the price of wood energy, the Department of Forestry should examine alternatives for setting a charge to rural traders, which would contribute to the revenue of the department, and would enable firewood coupes to become more competitive.

The working relationship recently initiated between the Departments of Energy and Forestry need to be further developed to ensure successful wood energy planning.

In rural areas, the issue of land tenure must be addressed as most of the firewood collectors are those without land.

Community forestry projects must include local wood energy provision especially in forest poor areas. This requires the community forestry units of the Department of Forestry and the Ministry of Environment to maintain their strong working relationship.

Provincial wood energy planning is necessary to address the local specificity of wood energy supply and consumption.

In making changes to wood energy policy, it will be necessary to consult other relevant government departments such as the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Rural Development.

Rural improved cookstove programmes should be extended into urban areas to improve the efficiency of wood energy consumption.

Further research into wood energy supply, distribution and use is necessary to successfully plan for future demands to be met. This will require training of government staff in the importance of data collection and analysis in this field. This could include consultation with experts from other countries within the region, and international and non-governmental organisations.

A data base should be established to provide the information necessary to formulate effective policies. It should be continuously updated.

Surveys at checkpoints at the municipal boundaries of Phnom Penh and in the urban markets should be undertaken on a regular basis to assess changes in the trade over time which would assist wood energy planning, energy forecasting and forest management plans.

For any of the above recommendations to be implemented it is necessary to strengthen institutional structures through legislative and regulatory frameworks and the securing of political will.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page