Written by
Samir Amous
APEX-ebbd, Tunis, Tunisia

Edited by
Sandra I. Rivero
Robert Flood

Under the supervision and coordination of
Miguel A. Trossero
Forest Products Division

Forestry Department
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome, Italy

Table of Contents








Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4

Appendix 5

Appendix 6

Appendix 7

Appendix 8

Appendix 9


Wood Energy constitutes a major source of energy in most countries, both developing and developed, and its contribution is expected to grow in the future as a result of the application of stricter environmental regulations and the use of more competitive sources of locally-available energy. Although FAO collects and presents statistical data and information on fuelwood and charcoal in its Forest Products Yearbook, this data needs improvement, disaggregation and better presentation.

FAO's wood energy initiatives have included, within its current regular programme activities, the development of an improved woodfuel and wood energy data base. This initiative is being carried out through different complementary approaches, mechanisms and activities, one of which is Wood Energy Today for Tomorrow.

Wood Energy Today for Tomorrow (WETT) collects, reviews and collates existing information and data on wood fuels and its related energy aspects at national level through the preparation of "regional studies". The main aim of these studies is to overcome the shortcomings encountered in the main wood energy databases and to fill the main data gaps. New and improved wood energy data will contribute to (a) determine how, where and how much wood fuel is used in different countries and regions; (b) describe the contribution of forests, wood lands and trees to the energy sector; (c) assess the environmental impacts; and (d) identify the main critical problem areas to be tackled for the development of sustainable wood energy systems.

It is also expected that the development of improved wood energy data will contribute to the better understanding of wood energy systems and to the planning of more sustainable production and utilization.

In addition, WETT will constitute an essential source of information for forest resource assessments, improved forest products statistics, outlook studies and the valuation of forests. Other studies are also being carried out by the FAO Forestry Department as part of the periodic assessment of the state of forest resources and for the presentation of the best available statistics on forest products world-wide which contributes to the understanding of the multidisciplinary role of forests, woodlands and trees and enables the planning of a more sustainable forest management together with the promotion of "greener" and more environmentally friendly energy systems.

This regional study presents an overview of the total wood energy consumption in 55 African countries based on information available in selected international organizations and makes recommendations for further improvements of Wood Energy Information Systems.

M.A. Trossero

Senior Forestry Officer

Wood Energy



The role of woodfuels in Africa

According to best current estimates, African woodfuel consumption reached 623 million m3 in 1994. This consumption level means that Africa has the highest per capita woodfuel consumption (0.89 m3/year) compared to other continents (e.g. Asia: 0.3 m3/ caput/year).

Except the five north African countries and South Africa, all African countries still depend heavily on wood to meet basic energy needs. In the various African regions, woodfuel share ranges from 61% to 86% of primary energy consumption, with a major part (74% to 97%) consumed by households. The management of woodfuel resources and demand should be considered a major issue in energy planning processes in Africa.

On the other hand, woodfuel consumption is a major contributor to total wood removal, accounting for around 92% of total African wood consumption and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Woodfuel use is therefore a major local and global environmental issue in Africa, and should be fully integrated into forestry planning and environmental protection processes.

In addition, woodfuels play a major socio-economic role in almost all African countries. Within the family, women are generally the most concerned by fuelwood issues since they devote a lot of their time to fuelwood gathering and cooking tasks; charcoal production and marketing on the other hand tend to be more formalized and male-specific, helping to provide jobs and substantial revenue for rural and urban people. These activities represent significant economic value in many countries, accounting for approximately US$ 6 billion for the whole of Africa. More than US$ 1 billion of this amount was made up by charcoal.

While fuelwood traditionally accounted for a major part of total woodfuel consumption, the social and economic changes associated with urbanization will lead to a significant shift from fuelwood to charcoal, increasing its energy, environmental, economic, and social role in Africa in the future.

Data quality issues

Despite its important interactions with development, environment, and social welfare, there have only been a few attempts in Africa to include woodfuels as a basic sector in planning processes.

Such ambition is seriously hampered by the scarcity, limited scope, and poor quality of existing data, despite several past efforts to improve woodfuel information systems. These shortcomings make it very hard to undertake relevant :

· impact studies of woodfuel use on environment in general and on forestry resources in particular;

· energy and forest planning and forecasting studies.

Evaluation of the various existing woodfuel data sources in Africa led to the following major conclusions:

· The FAO database is the only source of data that includes almost all African countries (except 6 minor consuming countries) and provides continuous time series for each country. However, the FAO database presents estimates rather than actual figures, and provides no detailed sectorial figures.

· The IEA database presents individual data for only 23 countries, and provides approximate global estimates for the 31 other countries under the heading "OTHER AFRICA". In addition, sectorial consumption of woodfuels is only available for the years 1995 and 1996, while the data for the remaining years are presented in aggregated form (Aggregate Primary Supply of Combustible Renewable and Waste).

· The ESMAP documents considered data for 39 countries among 55, with various quality levels, and generally reported only one reference year rather than historical series.

· The ENDA/IEPE documents reported data for only 28 countries and one reference year. In addition, no detailed sectorial consumption figures were provided.

· The other national and international sources of data identified, provided various levels of details, consistency and accuracy. Unfortunately, these sources used to focus on the demand side of the woodfuel issues, neglecting the supply side, and did generally not mention any indication related to the origin, quality, or even the estimation approach of the data, making it difficult to undertake adequate assessment.

Main Recommendations

Woodfuels are likely to remain a major energy source and a determining environmental and development issue in Africa in the mid-term future and even in the longer term. Therefore, a relevant effort aiming at improving knowledge on woodfuel demand and supply, as well as on its economic and social role, should clearly be undertaken in the future, particularly through sustainable and systematic data collection, compilation and analysis processes, with a unified approach and with the involvement of the major international organizations in this field.

These processes might be oriented in four different directions :

1. In the short term, it is recommended that a more efficient data collection process be created. This might be achieved through :

· identifying the relevant institutions and experts in each African country, and formulating a new collaboration process;

· modifying the data query procedure;

· defining a new questionnaire to address the issues relevant to woodfuel use.

2. In a medium-term, the quality of woodfuel data in Africa should be improved considerably by launching a pilot program targeting the major consuming countries or the countries where data quality was particularly poor. The programme should be centered around field surveys using an adequate methodology and surveying approach.

3. In the longer term, it will be necessary to develop and establish a data collection and updating framework in each African country and a systematic transmission process to FAO, which would act in an observatory role, compiling, aggregating and storing the data. It is worth noting that this new process would need to be accurately defined in order to facilitate the aggregation process. Suggested programme components could include :

· launching an ongoing observation process for woodfuel data;

· defining a collaboration framework between African countries and FAO on woodfuel in order to monitor the process appropriately;

· defining regional collaboration and exchange of experience frameworks among African countries.

4. While the current study did not address socio-economic issues related to woodfuels, they definitely constitute a turn-key subject for which information needs to be collected and improved internationally or even produced at national level. As a first step, it may be possible to adopt a simplified approach aimed at improving knowledge, and subsequently use the results to launch localized pilot studies that could be extrapolated to the whole of Africa.



ADB : African Development Bank
AFREPREN : African Energy Policy Research Network
CUM: cubic meters; however please note that the shorthand m3 was used in the text
ENDA : Environment and Development Action (International NGO)
ESMAP : Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (joint World Bank-UNDP Programme)
FAO : Food and Agriculture Organization
IEA : International Energy Agency
IEPE : Institut d'Economie et de Politique de l'Energie (Grenoble, France)
IPCC : Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
LPG : Liquefied Petroleum Gas
MJ : Megajoule
MT: Metric Ton; however please note that the shorthand Ton was used in the text
OECD : Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development
PJ : Petajoule
SADC : South African Development Community
TE-CO2 : Ton of CO2 Equivalent
TJ : Terajoule
TOE : Ton of Oil Equivalent
UN : United Nations
UNDP : United Nations Development Programme
UWET : Unified Wood Energy Terminology
WRI : World Resources Institute


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