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4.1. Rationale for launching a data collection process for woodfuels in Africa

Past trends of LPG use in Africa show that it is unlikely to play a significant medium-term role in meeting energy demand. Moreover, even for those 6 countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia) where LPG is used considerably, particularly in urban areas, woodfuels still play a significant role in meeting the demand for cooking, water heating and space heating.

In the future, these trends are likely to be confirmed; in fact woodfuel use is even growing owing to the following three parameters:

These facts will lead to greater pressure on forest ecosystems and to woodfuel being considered among the most crucial environment issues to be addressed in the future.

4.2. Current status of the national or international data collection process for woodfuels

Despite several past attempts at improving biofuel information systems in Africa, woodfuel information is still very scarce or poor quality, which prevents countries from undertaking detailed diagnosis and relevant planning activities.

In fact, woodfuel data collecting and recording was never considered a crucial issue and field surveys were never undertaken on a regular basis. (Only a few African countries have actually undertaken more than one national woodfuel demand survey during the last thirty years.) Moreover, the surveys generally used to cover a limited aspect of woodfuel demand (e.g., households only, urban only, fuelwood only, etc).

In many cases, estimates are global and uncertain and are sometimes the result of inconsistent extrapolation (e.g., woodfuel patterns for a village extrapolated to national rural level, etc.), while data quality and uncertainty were never documented.

Information on supply is often lacking or highly uncertain. Furthermore it is difficult to determine the share of woodfuels according to type (direct, indirect, recovered), origin (natural forests, fruit trees, etc.), or to extraction practice (specific forest clearing for energy purposes, collection after forest clearing undertaken for agricultural purposes, etc.).

At international level, FAO is the only organization which stores and records historical data using a specific annual questionnaire sent out to countries. However, the surveying approach has proved to be inefficient:

As a result, FAO would make annual extrapolations for almost all African countries in order to fill in the gaps, adopting a simple approach based on fixed per capita consumption. While this proved to be highly inconsistent at African aggregated level, the uncertainties are rather systematic at country level. Therefore, the approach needs to be modified in the particular case of woodfuels.

More recently, IEA launched a new process of reconstituting time series after a relevant data collection effort; however, this process has already reached its final phase and is unlikely to become an ongoing activity.

4.3. Recommendations for the future development of woodfuel data in Africa

Thus, given the social, economic and ecological importance of woodfuels and their contribution to development, a data collection process needs to be developed at national and international levels. This process should be established in three different steps:

4.3.1. Data collection procedure in the short term

In the short term, FAO should set up a more efficient data collection process. While it is useful to send out annual surveys to countries, this is only relevant for those countries that have undertaken recent surveys; otherwise only a few replies are received.

In order to overcome this problem, it is recommended that the data collection approach be modified in the following ways:

4.3.2. Data collection procedures in the medium term

In addition to short-term initiatives, the quality of woodfuel data in Africa could be improved considerably by launching a pilot programme targeting the 10 major African consuming countries (around 66% of African woodfuel consumption) or the countries where data quality was particularly poor or where data were unavailable. This programme could be launched within the next two years for a two-year period; it would be based primarily on field surveys. An adequate methodology and surveying approach should be developed in order to minimize costs(14) and maximize the quality of outputs. This programme should include the following characteristics :

4.3.3. Data collection procedure in the longer term

Eventually a data collection and updating framework should be developed in each African country as well as a systematic transmission process to FAO, which would act as an observatory compiling the data at aggregated levels.

This new process requires accurate definition in order to facilitate the aggregation process. Several components might be suggested:


13 Twice as much wood would be needed in terms of charcoal to meet the same useful energy need as fuelwood (considering 18% combustion efficiency for charcoal and 13% for fuelwood).

14 The approximate cost of the field surveys would range from US$ 100.000 to US$ 150.000 depending on the size of the country.

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