Latest News on Fuelwood : Mar 2022

Fuelwood Consumption and Forest Degradation: A Household Model for Domestic Energy Substitution in Rural India

This paper disusses domestic energy supply and demand in rural India. Links between forest scarcity and household fuel collection are analyzed in a non-separable household model, focusing on substitution of non-commercial fuels from the commons and the private domain. Based on data from villages bordering a protected area, a novel maximum entropy approach is used for estimation. It is found that households respond to forest scarcity and increased fuelwood collection time by substituting fuels from private sources for forest fuelwood. However, the magnitude of the response appears insufficient to prevent current fuelwood collection practices from causing serious forest degradation.[1]

Fuelwood, forests and community management – evidence from household studies

This paper reviews the state of economic understanding about fuelwood in developing countries. It synthesizes the main results from numerous empirical studies with the intent of identifying implications for policy and pointing out where important questions remain unanswered. Overall, the empirical results reviewed reinforce the contention that households alter their behavior in the presence of sufficient scarcity in ways that are least costly to them. Still, the cost can be substantial and many cases remain where policy intervention is justified to address concerns of both equity and efficiency. Addressing the coping capabilities of the very poor and the open access conditions of woodlands appear to be two ways of dealing with fuelwood scarcity that are likely to yield high social rates of return. Community forestry has the potential to address these two important areas, but there is little evidence to date that this is being done with fuelwood in mind.[2]

On fuelwood consumption, population dynamics and deforestation in Africa

As the literature on fuelwood in Africa has increased in quality in recent times, it has become evident that generalizations about Africa’s “fuelwood crisis” need to be treated with great caution. As a consequence, some commonly held (or “orthodox”) beliefs may now need to be reexamined. This paper subjects three such beliefs—(1) the existence of a linear relationship between population growth, fuelwood consumption and rates of fuelwood-induced deforestation, (2) that fuelwood-induced deforestation approximates ripples spreading outward from urban consuming centers, and (3) that land conversion to agriculture always reduces fuelwood supplies—to close scrutiny. The second and third assumptions are analyzed in the light of recently collected field data in the Kano area of northern Nigeria; while the examination of the first is based on a reinterpretation of information from a wider range of invironments. The paper concludes that although available data are inadequate for definitive conclusions to be drawn on the first count, it seems likely that variations arising out of demographic differentials in urban populations, in particular changes in per capita fuelwood consumption resulting from changes in consuming unit size, distort direct links between population growth rates and rates of increase in fuel consumption. Further information on the demographic characteristics of African towns is needed for meaningful analyses of temporal changes in the affected variables to be undertaken. The second and third assumptions are found to be inapplicable in the Kano case. Howe1ver, this should be interpreted much less as justification for their outright rejection, than as a reminder of the great potential of time- and space-specific considerations for rendering “universal” rules locally inapplicable.[3]

Effects of fuelwood harvesting on biodiversity — a review focused on the situation in Europe

A continually increasing demand for energy and concerns about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and peak oil have prompted countries to develop policies that promote renewable energy including forest-based bioenergy. In Europe, fuelwood-driven changes in forestry are likely to impact habitat conditions for forest biodiversity. We conducted a systematic literature overview based on 88 papers to synthesize research findings and gaps in knowledge. At the stand scale, but also on a landscape scale, deadwood availability and profile are altered by several practices: whole-tree harvesting and postharvest recovery of logging residues and stumps, for instance. Large-scale fuelwood removal may, on a landscape scale, jeopardize the amounts and diversity of substrate that saproxylic organisms require as food and habitat. Besides, bioenergy-related forest practices also affect nonsaproxylic biodiversity through physical (e.g., soil compaction and disturbance) and chemical changes in soil properties associated with fuelwood removal and increased machine traffic. Moreover, the extended density of internal edges threatens interior forest species populations. Important effects differ substantially between boreal and nemoral forests because of contrasts in management systems, structure of forest ownership, and ecological properties. Developing relevant operational guidelines to partially mitigate ecological damage on biodiversity should be based on our compiled cautionary statements but require further large-scale and long-term research.[4]

Fuelwood: The “other” renewable energy source for Africa?

In recent years, increasing concerns over rising oil prices, supply shortfalls and the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use have fed growing interest in renewable energy sources for Sub-Saharan Africa. Although traditional biofuels already enjoy widespread popularity, their use has often been actively discouraged due to the lingering influence of “fuelwood crisis” era narratives. In particular, urban fuelwood consumption is frequently portrayed as a cause of environmental degradation leading to energy insecurity among low-income households, especially where the resource is commercialized. Such views have had significant influence among policy makers, often resulting in repressive forestry legislation. In contrast, however, a number of researchers have demonstrated that wood energy dependence is often not a significant cause of deforestation and can provide important livelihood opportunities. This article reassesses urban fuelwood sourcing and its impacts using a recent case study conducted by the authors in Maun, Botswana and results previously reported in the literature. Findings indicate that although harvesting is unregulated, its impacts are significantly mitigated by collectors’ strong preferences for source sites with abundant dead wood, low competition and recognized access rights. As well, fuelwood vending is found to provide critical support to rural incomes and a key source of low-cost urban energy. As such, the benefits of fuelwood use and avoidance of negative effects will most effectively be achieved by decentralised management approaches that build on local institutions and understandings of the resource.[5]


[1] Heltberg, R., Arndt, T.C. and Sekhar, N.U., 2000. Fuelwood consumption and forest degradation: a household model for domestic energy substitution in rural India. Land Economics, pp.213-232.

[2] Cooke, P., Köhlin, G. and Hyde, W.F., 2008. Fuelwood, forests and community management–evidence from household studies. Environment and Development Economics, 13(1), pp.103-135.

[3] Cline-Cole, R.A., Main, H.A.C. and Nichol, J.E., 1990. On fuelwood consumption, population dynamics and deforestation in Africa. World Development, 18(4), pp.513-527.

[4] Bouget, C., Lassauce, A. and Jonsell, M., 2012. Effects of fuelwood harvesting on biodiversity—a review focused on the situation in Europe. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 42(8), pp.1421-1432.

[5] Hiemstra-van der Horst, G. and Hovorka, A.J., 2009. Fuelwood: the “other” renewable energy source for Africa?. Biomass and bioenergy, 33(11), pp.1605-1616.

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