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Woodfuel flows

To identify policy gaps that affect the supply of woodfuels in the forestry sector, more information is needed about where woodfuels originate, where and how they are processed and used, how they get there and what they are worth at each stage. In an attempt to clarify such woodfuel flows, studies have been conducted by and for the World Bank, UNDP, ESCAP and FAO in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries in the RWEDP (Regional Wood Energy Development Programme) network, as well as those involved in ESMAP and RPTES (see overleaf).

The studies discriminate between forest and non-forest woodfuel sources, commercial and non-commercial uses, different harvesting approaches, policies and regulations affecting woodfuel flows and the trading and transport channels by which they are delivered to the consumer (see Figures 7 and 8).

These variables also differ emphatically from place to place. For example, fuelwood harvesting from state-owned forests (the dominant form of forest ownership in RWEDP countries) is subject to a chequered variety of regulations and customs.

In Myanmar, trees from government-controlled forests destined for fuelwood or charcoal production are marked by Forest Department personnel and permits are issued to allow woodcutters to harvest the marked trees. In Pakistan, the Forest Department harvests and sells woodfuels through open auctions of lots sorted into species and sizes, each with different prices. Argentina and Brazil's Forest Departments issue permits to trading organizations to remove woodfuels in certain areas, often in conjunction with timber permits or concessions.

In all cases, an unknown amount of unauthorized woodfuel extraction takes place. In some countries, local people are allowed to collect dead wood and litter from the forest for their own use, although much of it is then sold.


The Joint UNDP/World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) was launched in 1983 to implement energy reforms and ensure that proposed investments in the energy sector represented efficient use of resources. Following extensive reorganization of the Programme in 1990, today's ESMAP aims to assist governments, donors and potential investors in identifying, funding and implementing economically and environmentally sound energy strategies.

ESMAP is governed by a consultative group chaired by the World Bank's Vice President for Finance and Private Sector Development, and advised by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of independent energy experts who review the Programme's strategic agenda, work programme and other concerns. ESMAP is staffed by engineers, energy planners and economists from the Industry and Energy Department of the World Bank. The Director of this department is also responsible for administering ESMAP.

ESMAP is a cooperative effort supported by the United Nations, the European Union, Organization of American States, Latin American Energy Organization, and around 20 independently contributing donor countries.


Since May 1993, the World Bank and the Government of the Netherlands Cooperative Programme, launched a project to assist five African countries, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and the Gambia, with a view to improving understanding of the dynamic forces that characterise their Traditional Energy Sector. Reviews of existing policies, programmes and on-going projects reveal that data regarding woodfuel collection, cutting and conversion, transport and trading and end use, are inconsistent and fragmentary These processes need to be better charted before the value, supply, demand and uses of woodfuels can be justly determined and trends monitored so that policies more responsive to sustainable economic use can be designed and implemented in a coordinated or planned manner.

FIGURE 9 Thinking globally, acting locally

'Classical forestry and social forestry can co-exist: if not, classical forestry should give way to social forestry... This should be done by putting equity before economy... The issue of 'favouring many before one' should come first before the issue of economy of scale or financial capability.'

R. Laitalainen and M. Boita, Royal Forest Department, Thailand

Although fuelwood supplies from the official forestry sector are the least difficult to quantify, their real extent, value and end-use remains uncertain. Greater uncertainty can be expected in the case of supplies from farms, waysides and other sources outside major forest preserves.

Overall, the RWEDP studies suggest that demand for woodfuels is likely to increase with rising population levels. This prospect may well be advantageous to ordinary households and small businesses in developing countries - and to national exchequers.


The Philippines' second largest city, Cebu, was selected as an appropriate site for the study of commercial woodfuel markets under the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme (RWEDP) for several reasons:

• the market is well developed and employs a significant number of rural and urban dwellers who move a large volume of woodfuels, as well as other biofuels, which serve the energy needs of not only urban households and small-scale businesses, but also those of a number of medium to large-scale industries;

• Cebu is probably the most deforested province in the country, with less than one-half of I per cent of its land forested. However, a significant trade in woodfuel has been maintained since 1876;

• fuelwood plantations are apparently maintained on private land, which contradicts the usual reports that 'open access' extraction of woodfuels keeps prices too low to encourage private planting of fuelwood species.

An area-based woodfuel assessment was carried out with the financial assistance of the RWEDP and the FAO's Wood Energy Programme in three phases:

• survey of household users and institutional, commercial and industrial users;
• gathering data on woodfuel marketing in metropolitan Cebu;
• woodfuel supply sources and mechanisms.

Findings to date contradict the perception that fuelwood and charcoal are main causes of deforestation. Although there are no large areas planted with fast-growing trees, if appropriately managed the many scattered woodlots and trees can fulfil market demand for fuelwood. Policies now need to be reviewed in the light of these findings.

'Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.'

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 1

As an indigenous resource woodfuels do not have to be imported using foreign currency; they are also renewable and accessible and so represent a relatively secure energy supply. Trade in woodfuels also provides employment and income for many landless and jobless people who would otherwise have few or no means of livelihood.

The ORWEDP findings show with some certainty that the use and availability of woodfuel resources is closely and intricately interwoven with local economic and employment conditions and, by extension, with national prosperity and growth.

Over time (though less obviously) they can also be expected to affect global market trends and environmental security. Judging by evidence from various studies, including the RWEDP study (see left) in Cebu City, it makes sense to 'think globally - act focally' by putting into action decentralised area based plans for fuelwood and charcoal production, trade and use wherever local circumstances of supply and demand merit it.

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