Fuelwood in Tanzania

LEDC energy use varies considerably depending on resource endowment but one common factor in developing countries is the use of fuelwood for heating, cooking and even light.  There are many issues around fuelwood use, including environmental (deforestation), health and pollution concerns.  The problems are historical and a summary of the Tanzanian fuelwood situation is set out by Michael Fergus in a 1983 , in The Geographical Journal, March 1983, as follows:

“Over 90 per cent Tanzania’s energy requirements are derived from traditional non-commercial fuels, i.e. firewood, charcoal, grass and animal manure. At the same time the supplies of alternative energy forms, i.e. electricity, oil, diesel and kerosene are actually contracting because of Tanzania’s difficult foreign exchange problems and increases in oil prices. This situation is putting increasing pressure on the Region’s forest resources, leading to deforestation in populated areas and related flooding and soil erosion problems.

“It is contended that the energy requirements of subsistence economy populations have previously been underestimated. There is thus an urgent need to find alternatives to firewood and the author suggests that hydropower resources could be developed more cheaply than thermal power options. Hydroelectric power for a rural electrification programme could save scarce resources of imported oil for essential purposes and relieve pressures on forest reserves.” (viewed online 19/05/2015 at http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/633340?uid=3737952&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21106884129293 )

An American aid worker in Tanzania has written a very good case study of fuelwood gathering and use in a village in Tanzania: the full PDF study is here Tanzania fuelwood case study (Katie M. Preston, 2012) and there is a redacted short version of the same study which I have put here on a Word file: Case study of LEDC fuelwood

Alternatives to fuelwood are very important and in Tanzania there is one project to manufacture fuel briquettes made from sawdust: “This project was set up to advocate for the technology that saw dust will be used directly by sawdust stoves. Sawdust will also be moulded into briquettes that will be used in place of firewood. This brings about ecological benefits. Economically sell of the saw dust briquettes raised income of the project direct beneficiaries.”  A short video about this can be seen here (sound quality poor):

Sustainable bioenergy is another area of Tanzania’s energy development which deserves some attention. A PDF file produced by PISCES (Policy Innovation Systems for Clean Energy Security) delivers an excellent case study: Biofuels-and-sustainability.-A-Case-Study-from-Tanzania

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