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:
· Population growth, which is higher than the substitution process to LPG.
· The urbanization process, which generally implies a shift to charcoal in most African countries. Low carbonization efficiencies will mean greater wood demand (13).
· The concentration of consumption in urban areas leads to greater pressure on nearby forest resources. In addition, carbonization practices will mean systematic clearing operations for production purposes whereas fuelwood use was mainly a by-product of forest clearing activities arising from shifting cultivation practices.
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:
· The questionnaire is transmitted through official channels (generally to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs), making it difficult to target the most relevant department or the most suitable person. Most of the time, answers are received very late or not at all, particularly for woodfuel data.
· Despite their importance in wood removals, woodfuels are modestly addressed and the requested information is put forward in such a way that countries would rather address the commercial side of woodfuel use or even totally neglect woodfuels. Moreover, the questionnaire does not cover the supply side of the woodfuel issue.
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:
· short term: establishing a more efficient data collection process;
· medium term: launching a pilot project aimed at improving data in major woodfuel consuming countries;
· longer term: establishing an adequate data collecting and updating framework at national and international levels, including field surveys and specific updating approaches (limited annual surveys, simulation, models, etc.).
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:
a) Identifying the relevant institutions and experts in each country in Africa, and launching a new collaborative process. This task is to be initiated immediately as programmed by FAO, and should cover the following activities:
· identifying the most relevant specialists in each African country during the regional workshops;
· involving the FAO Program Officers in the countries concerned;
· consolidating the best estimates and identifying the gaps;
· collecting the recommendations from country experts on improving data collecting procedures in Africa.
b) Modifying the data query procedure: the questionnaire should henceforward be transmitted to the most relevant person in each country. During regional workshops, countries should decide to nominate an official person to act as a counterpart to the FAO Program Officer for data compilation and collection.
c) Defining a new questionnaire to address suitable issues related to woodfuel use. This questionnaire should comply completely with FAO definitions and unified terminology (a detailed presentation of the sheets is available in Appendix 8). However, in addition to woodfuel data, this questionnaire should cover the following questions:
· countries' circumstances linked to woodfuel use;
· uncertainty assessment of the data;
· specifications of data origin (estimates, field surveys, etc.).
· Subsequently, it would also be interesting to develop a more refined questionnaire that covers other modules such as:
· information on woodfuel economics;
· information on the social aspects of woodfuel (distance, time spent collecting woodfuels, time for production, responsibility of woodfuel gathering, etc.).
d) Including a definitions/conventions module in the questionnaire in order to adapt better to specific country conditions. FAO can then calculate the corresponding average parameters for Africa rather than making assumptions that are a long way from representing real conditions in African Countries. As a minimum, the module should cover the following parameters:
· Woodfuels conversion factors to energy: instead of developing a compulsory unified conversion factor for the whole of Africa, it would be more appropriate to suggest default factors, since what is required is an evaluation of the actual energy content of woodfuels. Priority should be given to encouraging the gathering of country specific data since these conversion factors are a function of the conditions under which woodfuels are used.
· Carbonization efficiency: this is critical information, particularly in countries where charcoal plays a major role. Again, it is only necessary to put forward default efficiency factors that are estimated realistically according to the African context. For example, the present study showed that the carbonization ratio varies from 6 to 10 tons of wood for a ton of charcoal according to country. Priority should also be given to encouraging the gathering of country specific data.
· Combustion efficiency for the different cooking equipment: this information is necessary to determine the basic energy needs of local people and to undertake relevant projection exercises for planning and comparison purposes. This will also help in assessing savings potential that could be achieved through the use of improved combustion technologies.
· The moisture content of fuelwood: this is essential for assessing fuel energy content as well as carbonization and combustion efficiencies. This information is also important for consistent analysis of demand-supply balances. Here again, it would be necessary to gather country specific data although data availability on moisture content would represent a limiting factor.
· Specific density factors of the wood to be considered in each country: this factor is subject to large variations according to the wood species and specific country estimates. While it could be used to produce aggregate figures, a unified African factor would not be relevant at national levels. Therefore, countries should adopt their own initiatives for calculating density factors.
e) Enabling country experts to use simplified models for simulating the required data and preparing a unified framework for this task in order to facilitate data aggregation at African level. African countries are unable to carry out large annual surveys to monitor woodfuel demand and supply. Panel surveys or frequent surveys (e.g. large national surveys every 3-5 years) are not even possible. However countries should have the possibility to simulate annual demand and supply using simplified models in order to complete the time series. These models might differ according to specific country conditions; however, a unified modeling approach could be developed in order to produce consistent projections for aggregation.
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 :
· a quick national survey (no more than 6-9 months of field survey);
· data gathering on woodfuel demand by sector and by area;
· data gathering on woodfuel demand by woodfuel type;
· information gathering on woodfuel patterns and behaviors : past trends and outcomes;
· supply side information (origin of woodfuels, collecting practices, etc.).
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:
· launching an ongoing observation process for woodfuel data (demand, supply, demand-supply balance) in each country, through regular field surveys, remote sensing and cartography programmes;
· defining a framework for collaboration between African countries and FAO in the woodfuel domain in order to monitor the process properly;
· defining a regional framework for collaboration and exchanges of experience among African countries.
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.