In November 1999, FAO and the European Commission (EC) signed a project document entitled Sustainable Forest Management Programme in African ACP countries (GCP/RAF/354/EC), the overall objective of which is to "assist national forestry administrations in African ACP countries to reform and focus policies and institutions to support the achievement of sustainable forest management". The immediate objective of the Wood Energy Planning and Policy Development component is "wood energy planning and policy development will be strengthened across the whole of the African ACP region". The activities to achieve this will be carried out in two phases: the first is to enhance wood energy data within project member countries, while the second will be focused on the creation of enhanced national capabilities for the promotion of sustainable, efficient and cost-effective wood energy information systems.

Country studies

The project continues the work initiated in the previous FAO/EU project "Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management in ACP Countries - Linking National and International Efforts" (GCP/INT/679/EC). During this project, The role of wood energy in Africa, a regional study in the Wood Energy Today for Tomorrow (WETT) series, was prepared, which revises woodfuel consumption data in 55 African countries. In addition, agreements were made with national experts from 22 countries - using FAO's Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) mechanism - for the review of woodfuel data in their respective countries. To date, studies from the following 16 countries have been completed:



Congo Basin




Central African Republic

Burkina Faso
Guinea Bissau

Studies from Seychelles, the United Republic of Tanzania, Benin, Liberia, Mali and Mauritania are currently in progress.

The objectives of these studies are to: review existing woodfuel data available at country level; compare this information with the country estimates published in The role of wood energy in Africa; and analyse trends in the current demand/supply balance and attempt projections.

Initial conclusions from the review of the 16 studies would indicate that these TCDC activities are definitely useful and should be expanded to other countries of the region, since:

· the material provided through the country reports, although quite heterogeneous, is much more informative than simply completing a questionnaire;

· the studies provide a temporal baseline of national sources and references that is more recent than the one available from international databases (on average five years more recent); and

· they establish important personal/institutional links, which represent a sound competent basis for the development of a regional wood energy network.

Although these TCDC activities are still in progress (the authors might review their reports on the basis of specific requests for additional information or clarifications), some interesting preliminary conclusions can be drawn on the status of wood energy information currently available at the country level.

Concerning woodfuel consumption, 12 studies provide estimates (complete or incomplete) which are alternative to those published in The role of wood energy in Africa, while another four do not provide alternative estimates owing to the lack of suitable national references. The discrepancies between the new country estimates and the values from The role of wood energy in Africa tend to be rather high, which indicates that there is little consistency among data sets which are, therefore, rarely comparable. This variability can seriously affect analysis and planning since different sources may indicate different scenarios, thus prompting unrealistic policies. To solve this shortcoming, more emphasis should be given to data reliability and, in order to allow that, all statistics should refer to the original sources and should report the survey methods applied to produce them (date of survey, approach, sampling intensity, stratification, coverage, etc.).

Concerning the level of detail of the statistics reported by the 12 studies that provided alternative estimates, Rural/Urban consumption breakdown was indicated in eight reports while breakdown by Household/Industrial sectors was indicated in six. However, it appears that with  a little extra effort from the authors such subdivisions could be achieved for additional countries.

Concerning the estimation of woodfuel supply and supply/demand balance, this was discussed with well-supported evidence in six studies only, while it was marginally mentioned in another four. In view of the key role that information on supply and supply/demand balance plays in forecasting and planning the wood energy sector, its limited availability represents a serious limitation to sustainable planning and policy development. Fuelwood resources and their regenerative capacity, while traditionally considered a permanent asset ruled by free gathering, is fast becoming a dwindling essential commodity that requires careful management, starting with adequate area-specific assessments. Unfortunately, this information appears to be largely neglected nowadays.

All authors qualify wood energy as being by far the primary form of energy in their countries. At the same time, almost all lament that adequate surveys are rare and that the presence of teams specialized in this sector in national planning is poor or non-existent.

Regional workshop

Another important activity of the project will be the Regional Workshop on Wood Energy Information in Africa, which will be held later this year in Africa (venue and date to be defined). Participants will be national officials and experts from selected ACP countries and representatives of regional and international institutions concerned with wood energy issues. The main objectives of this workshop will be to:

· present the wood energy component of the FAO-EC project;

· carry out a diagnostic of the national capabilities for the collection, presentation and dissemination of woodfuel data;

· present the main findings and results of activities already carried out, including:

- the regional study The role of wood energy in Africa;

- country reports on wood energy produced under TCDC arrangements;

- the relation between wood energy data from national and international databases;

- the Unified Wood Energy Terminology (UWET) developed by FAO's Wood Energy Programme, and other relevant tools/guidelines;


· discuss follow-up action, including the scope and structure of a regional network on wood energy for the exchange of information and experiences.

(Contributed by: Rudi Drigo, Consultant, Wood Energy Programme, Forest Products Division, FAO.)

For more information, please contact:
Mr Pape Koné, Senior Forestry Officer, Regional Office for Africa (RAF), PO Box 1628, Accra, Ghana.
Fax: +233 21 244079;


A dominant feature in the Horn of Africa is natural resources degradation. Fragile ecosystems are under pressure as utilization of their resources occurs under normal circumstances. They are further degraded through the many crises cropping up from droughts and other violent natural processes. Heavy rains that may occur over denuded land trigger violent erosion movements. Among the natural living resources, forest and tree resources are important as they play a number of roles, either in meeting human needs or in buffering natural processes affecting ecosystems under various land uses.

Forest and tree resources have marked influences on water and wind erosion, they are essential in ecosystem balance and they contribute to the management and conservation of watersheds. The variety of plant formations react differently to climatic and other stresses and provide buffers at the local level, or from area to area. This phenomenon is well known by grazers who have exploited various zones in turn throughout the year. In considering medium- to long-term policies and strategies, the place and role of forest and tree resources need to be assessed and properly planned.

FAO is currently leading the UN-wide medium-term response to recurring crises in the Horn of Africa. The seven countries targeted are: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda. The exercise aims at having an in-depth look at the situation in the region, its natural resources and the way they are being used, the interaction between human-induced natural resource degradation and the impact of climatic and weather conditions. It will also consider the potential, the constraints and the opportunities, and will explore ways of devising new policies, approaches and programmes conducive to the restoration of the balance in the region's economy and ecology. Within this framework, the study now under way aims at considering the subsector of forestry and, specifically, the management and use of forest and tree resources. The study will make an overall stocktaking of the forest and tree resources and their utilization and the degradation processes affecting them. The possibilities of a better management of these resources, and all the opportunities thus offered in offsetting degradation processes, supporting production systems and underpinning income-generating activities, will be explored. The major output will be a report providing an assessment of the forest sector and a review of its future contribution to the sustainable development of the region.

FAO's Wood Energy Programme staff are fully committed to providing the assistance required from their field of expertise; in fact, information is currently being provided to the Special Programme for the Horn of Africa, particularly on woodfuel consumption patterns. Africa, as a whole, is reputed to have the highest per caput woodfuel consumption (0.89 m3/year) compared with other continents such as Asia which consumes 0.3 m3 per caput per year (WETT regional study for Africa, 1999). As far as wood energy is concerned, in the Horn of Africa fuelwood is the most popular source of household fuel, with an annual consumption of about 115 million m3 (83 million tonnes). Consumption is rising at an annual rate of nearly 2 million m3 (1.45 million tonnes) or 1.8 percent.

The role of wood energy in Africa, the Wood Energy Today for Tomorrow (WETT) regional study produced by FAO's Wood Energy Programme, is a compilation of statistics and database on woodfuel use and other related figures as of July 1999. This source of information, among the other resources within FAO's Wood Energy Programme, may prove to be extremely useful to the Horn of Africa.

For more information, please contact:
Ms Elizabeth Remedio, Visiting Scientist, Wood Energy Programme, Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO.


Un symposium international organisé en Afrique démontre l'intérêt de la bioénergie pour répondre aux besoins énergétiques des pays africains.

Le rôle majeur que peut jouer la bioénergie pour satisfaire la demande en énergie des pays africains, tout en ayant un impact positif sur les changements climatiques, est apparu lors du symposium international «Biomasse énergie pour le développement et l'environnement: quelles perspectives pour l'Afrique?». Organisé par le programme bois du Cirad-Forêt en collaboration avec l'Institut de l'énergie et de l'environnement de la francophonie (IEPF) et sous l'égide du Ministère de l'énergie de la Côte d'Ivoire, le séminaire s'est tenu à Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) du 29 novembre au 2 décembre 1999, grâce à des financements internationaux (Banque mondiale, Banque africaine de développement, Belgique, Canada, France).

Plus de 220 participants et intervenants (techniciens, ingénieurs, cadres dirigeants, ministres, directeurs de l'énergie et des forêts, etc.), du secteur privé et public, étaient venus d'une trentaine de pays, essentiellement d'Afrique. Après une présentation synthétique et une évaluation des programmes de biomasse énergie en Afrique de l'Ouest, les intervenants ont mis en évidence la capacité de la biomasse à satisfaire les besoins dans certains secteurs, comme dans les agro-industries les plus courantes (huileries de palmes, sucreries) et les complexes industriels du bois où elle est compétitive. Les industries les plus performantes utilisent l'énergie contenue dans leurs déchets pour autosatisfaire les besoins en chaleur et électricité de leurs procédés de transformation, et approvisionnent de plus en plus le réseau national. Ils ont évoqué les contraintes techniques, économiques et fiscales liées à la mise en _uvre de la bioénergie, puis ont présenté des expériences sur la réduction des gaz à effet de serre et sur la mobilisation des financements du Fonds mondial pour l'environnement. Les aspects sociaux, notamment le rôle des femmes dans l'utilisation de la biomasse, ont été discutés, ainsi que l'importance d'une politique de protection des sols pour la production durable de biomasse.

Des recommandations pour favoriser la bioénergie.

Constatant le manque d'information dont souffrent les acteurs économiques et institutionnels africains, les participants ont recommandé de mettre en _uvre des actions pour que les pays accèdent à une information pertinente, en favorisant les transferts Sud-Sud.

Afin de faciliter les transferts de technologie et l'acquisition des savoirs, et compenser ainsi la faiblesse du tissu industriel, la participation des pays du Sud aux programmes de recherche et de recherche-développement doit être renforcée.

L'approche régionale doit être encouragée et l'émergence d'une expertise africaine favorisée. Enfin, il faut veiller à ce que les pays africains accèdent aux financements internationaux (Fonds mondial pour l'environnement). Ces financements peuvent en effet les aider à mettre en place une politique énergétique fondée sur les énergies renouvelables, par le biais de projets décentralisés.

Convaincue de l'importance de ce secteur, la Banque mondiale organisera un événement international sur les énergies renouvelables, qui pourrait avoir lieu à Washington, États-Unis en 2000. (Contribution de: M. Philippe Girard, CIRAD-Forêt, France.)

FAO and IEA Bioenergy

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

As you have learned from John Tustin's editorial, the MoU between FAO and the secretariat of IEA Bioenergy has finally been signed. The main purpose of this MoU is to cooperate and work together on projects of mutual interest in the field of bioenergy in general and wood energy in particular.

However, it must also be said that this MoU opens up new opportunities for both FAO and IEA Bioenergy: we at FAO now have easier access to our counterparts in the energy sector who are on the other side of the bioenergy system while, at the same time, IEA Bioenergy can improve their access to FAO's main counterparts - the agencies involved with agricultural issues, and particularly forestry.

The benefits expected in the long term are quite ambitious and challenging and include:

– increasing the visibility of the bioenergy activities developed by both groups;

– improving the exchange of information between the target groups of both sides in the agricultural forestry sector, as well as in the energy sector;

– improving cooperation between experts and activities covering bioenergy aspects, from both the demand (energy) side and the supply (agricultural) side;

– improving, as much as possible, cost-effectiveness - doing more with the same resources; and, of course,

– having access to new areas of expertise for the FAO field projects that are concerned with the bioenergy sector and, for IEA Bioenergy, improving their accessibility to FAO's projects in the field in order to test and disseminate their expertise and research.

In line with these aspects, we have selected the following main areas of cooperation: joint meetings, the promotion and publicity of our Internet sites and newsletters, and the development of an ad hoc education and training programme.

I hope to count on your collaboration in achieving these objectives.

Miguel Trossero

Unifying Bioenergy Terminology (UBET)

Ambiguity in terminology has been a recurring issue and problem when dealing with wood energy data, in particular, and biomass energy, in general. The FAO Wood Energy Programme started terminology clarification and vocabulary-building work some years ago. In the course of these efforts, it became apparent that the task was not as simple as it seemed at the start. It began to be realized more and more that wood energy and bioenergy are complex systems and that there are many aspects, issues and assumptions to be considered besides sheer statistics, data collection and data presentation.

It is interesting to note that another attempt at systematizing terminology is Task 28 of IEA, which is currently charged with work on Solid Biomass Fuels Standardization and Classification. Contemporary work on bioenergy now covers three areas: statistics, resources and standardization. Taking stock of all these changes and new events necessitates a shift from mere UWET (Unified Wood Energy Terminology) to UBET (Unifying Bioenergy Terminology). Moreover, there is a need for coordination and cooperative work among the three areas mentioned earlier in order that the different agencies and groups can act together and achieve greater success in terminology unification.

What is UBET?

In an attempt at unifying and harmonizing biomass energy terminology, a paper has been drafted entitled Coming to terms with bioenergy. It serves as a sequel to UWET, reported in 1997, but this time the focus is bioenergy. Bioenergy is the appropriate catch phrase encompassing wood energy. The UWET report accomplished the goals it initially set: first, to review and examine the wood energy concepts and terminologies used by FAO and other organizations and institutions producing databases in these areas; and, second, it proposed ways of improving the definition, classification, compilation and presentation of woodfuel facts and figures.

One particular gap articulated in the report was that marginal attention has been given to agrofuels, mainly in the aspect of terminology and in the development of improved databases. This observation resulted from the long, meticulous process of reviewing various documents, reports and reference materials on wood energy. All told, UWET contributed significantly to the current awareness that wood energy from woodfuels should be gleaned from a more comprehensive point of view. Not only should it be seen from the consumption and user's perspective (as is the practice at present) but, more important, it should also be understood from the origin of production of the resource in question.

Thus, the main distinguishing feature of UWET has been its greater emphasis on the origin and source of woodfuel (a supply-driven definition) as the basis for defining terminology, as well as the basis for classifying woodfuels. Hence, in current wood energy terminology, the predominant categories of woodfuel, as mentioned in Forest Energy Forum Nos 3 and 5, include: Direct, Indirect and Recovered Woodfuels as subcategories, depending upon which layer of the Woodfuel Flow Process is being referred to.

Once this critical concept was successfully established, the picture gradually began to broaden leading to the chief innovation of the UWET report: the inclusion and systematic categorization of Agrofuels and Municipal By-products as separate categories within Biofuels (see Figure). Within the broader Biofuel spectrum, this incorporation has been recognized as singly a UWET report variation. UWET's route led the thinking outside the forest. In fact, it drove the conclusion back home to forestry's better half: agriculture.

To summarize, employing this reference, Agrofuels include common examples, such as bagasse, straw and stalks; while, on the other hand, Municipal By-products refer to sludge, municipal wastes, sludge gas and the like. Evidently, this process of categorization resulted in somehow "breaking bulk" the various significant layers and levels of Biofuels vis-à-vis Bioenergy, hence making sense and pointing in the right direction towards understanding the concepts.

UBET is picking up where UWET left off. Beyond wood energy, is the inclusion of both Agrofuels and Municipal By-products, as two main categories completing the overall picture of Biofuels, relative to Bioenergy? With this knowledge we then realize that the link between the forestry-agriculture-energy nexus is a critical point that can neither be ignored nor underestimated.

Bioenergy is probably as old as history itself, but it is a long-forgotten source of biofuel mainly because the age of the industrial revolution, space and electronics has focused most of its attention on how to achieve economic development through industrialization using non-renewable fossil fuels as the main engine. Everywhere the spotlight was on industrial development, with agriculture lagging behind. Yet, for the billions of people in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, biomass continues to supply around a third of their energy requirements, with agriculture supplying all their food needs.

For more information, please contact: Miguel Trossero

Comprehensive biofuel matrix

(Terminology used in resource production versus terminology used in resource consumption)

Supply side
(biofuels as resources)

Common grouping

Demand side
(biofuels as consumption fuels)

Direct woodfuels
Indirect woodfuels
Recovered woodfuels
Wood-derived fuels

Solid: Fuelwood (wood in the rough,
chips, sawdust, pellets), charcoal

Black liquor, methanol,
pyrolysis oil

Fuel crops
Crop by-products
Animal by-products
Agro-industrial by-products


Solid: Straw, stalks, husks,
bagasse, charcoal from the above
biofuels, dried cow dung

Ethanol, raw vegetable oil,
oil diester, methanol,
pyrolysis oil from solid agrofuels

Biogas, producer gas,
pyrolysis gases from agrofuels

Municipal by-products

Solid: Municipal solid wastes (MSW)

Sewage sludge, pyrolysis oil from MSW

Landfill gas, sludge gas

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