Strong policy support essential for sustainable woodfuel value chains

©FAO/Svea Senesie7 September 2018, Nairobi - Woodfuel can be a sustainable source of energy and its value chains can contribute to landscape restoration, better livelihoods, and commitments to fight climate change. But to achieve that, a framework of strong supporting policies that promotes sustainable production and well-governed producer organizations is essential.

This message was emphasized during the ‘Sustainable woodfuel value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa’ side event at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Nairobi last week. The side event, co-organized by the Forest Farm Facility (FFF), brought together representatives of local, district and national charcoal producer associations, local and national government officials and researchers who discussed practical challenges. Panellists emphasized the importance of best practices and innovations to promote sustainability and good governance in producer organizations.

Commercializing woodfuel is providing income to millions of people – but at the same time, it’s raising more and more concerns about the environmental impacts, said participants. This is in part because woodfuel production and trade is usually informal and existing legal frameworks are inadequate. Further, issues around governance, combined with unsustainable production technologies and practices, can accelerate deforestation, landscape degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.

“What is needed are policies that will support sustainable production and good governance, including in Forest and Farm Producer Organizations”, said Jeffrey Campbell, Manager of the Forest Farm Facility and facilitator of the side event.

“We must find ways to balance short-term, social and economic benefits with long-term ecological benefits, and consider good practices and innovations for sustainable woodfuel value chains. The important role of women in those value chains must also be emphasized", added Campbell.

Vital to food security, woodfuel is now the main cooking fuel for over 60 percent of households in Africa – and numbers are expected to increase in the coming decades, due to a lack of alternative household energy and growing charcoal demand in urban centers. Improvements in sustainable woodfuel value chains have the potential to contribute to climate-change mitigation, restoration work, poverty reduction, access to energy and several other Sustainable Development Goals.

Establishing an Africa-wide network of people involved in the woodfuel value chain, ‘Networking for change in woodfuel value chains’ was also discussed during the side event, which was organized by the Forest Farm Facility, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), with support from UN Environment, the European Union, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

Following the Global Landscapes Forum conference, which focused on forest and landscape restoration in Africa, the Forest Farm Facility organized a two-day knowledge and learning exchange in Kitui County, Kenya together with Forest Farm Facility partners from Zambia and Kenya. Co-organizers of this exchange were CIFOR, ICRAF, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the Charcoal Producers Federation of Kenya (CPFK) and the Government of Kitui County. The location was selected because it’s at the centre of charcoal value-chain activities in Kenya. The county government has undertaken a number of interventions to manage and guide charcoal production and trade.

Participants discussed numerous topics, including the effects – both positive and negative – of the ban on charcoal trade in Kitui County; the challenges faced by charcoal producers’ associations in both Kenya and Zambia; and the importance of enabling policies as well as a clear and accessible registration process for producers and traders working in sustainable and inclusive woodfuel value chains.

The Forest Farm Facility is a partnership between FAO, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and AgriCord.

last updated:  Friday, September 7, 2018