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Research Report

Fuelwood Revisited:: What Has Changed in the Last Decade?

Michael Arnold
Gunnar Köhlin
Reidar Persson
Gillian Shepherd
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2003
Pages: 47
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. vi-viii)
    Michael Arnold, Gunnar Köhlin, Reidar Persson and Gillian Shepherd

    This report reviews recent patterns and trends in the supply and use of wood for fuels in developing countries, drawing on new information that has become available over the past decade. It examines whether the results of this exercise indicate a need for changes in our approach to this facet of forestry. Rather than seeking to draw definitive policy conclusions however, the main purpose of this review is to identify aspects of the woodfuels¹ situation that may require further investigation and discussion.

    The review commences by looking at the period from the mid 1970s, when a major increase in interest...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    In industrialised countries, wood based fuels (fuelwood or firewood and charcoal) have long been replaced by more efficient and convenient sources of fuel. However, in developing regions, less able to afford and access alternative sources of energy, wood has remained a dominant fuel. Huge numbers of subsistence users depend upon it for their domestic energy and a large number of poor people rely on woodfuel trading as a source of income.

    The impact of woodfuel collection on forests has been controversial and its role in rural livelihoods and deforestation the subject of considerable debate. This study covers the main dimensions...

  3. (pp. 2-7)

    Until roughly the middle of the nineteenth century, wood was used everywhere as the principal source of energy, even in North America and Europe. It has since been steadily replaced by cheaper, more efficient and convenient sources of fuel— first coal and later oil, gas and electricity. Although, it was probably not until the early twentieth century that wood lost its place as the main fuel in the rural areas of most industrialised countries. Its decline has since been rapid and continuous.

    Yet, in less developed countries, much less able to afford alternative sources of energy, wood has remained a...

  4. (pp. 7-15)

    The general thrust of woodfuel research has been on examining fuelwood and charcoal issues at more disaggregated and focussed levels, given the considerable differences that exist amongst various user and supply situations. However, two aspects of national overviews have continued to attract attention, with both having significant potential implications for forest policies. One is the overall magnitude of fuelwood and charcoal usage at the national level and the direction and rate of changes in consumption. The other relates to the pattern of supply and the way this pattern is changing and impacting on the forest resource. These aspects are reviewed...

  5. (pp. 15-23)

    The previous Section’s appraisal of the available evidence does not substantiate earlier concerns that woodfuel demand has been outpacing sustainable supply on a scale that makes it a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation. It appears the balance between fuelwood supply and demand is seldom an issue requiring forestry intervention on a national scale, although the rapid rise of charcoal as an urban fuel is posing some concern at this level. Overall, the woodfuels situation is an important consideration for particular areas within a country and for particular groups of users and suppliers. From the evidence reviewed, three main...

  6. (pp. 23-29)

    The picture that emerges from the preceding review of available information is quite a complex one. There are usually a number of different categories of woodfuel users, with each drawing supplies from a variety of sources. Meeting the needs of one group of users may adversely affect the interests or situations relating to other groups. For instance, rural users often have to compete with demands from urban and industrial users and amongst the rural users themselves, the interests of subsistence users may conflict with the interests of those able to participate in woodfuel markets (and vice versa). Privatisation of rural...

  7. (pp. 29-30)

    This review supports the conclusions arrived at in the late 1980s that there is not a ‘fuelwood crisis’ of such a magnitude and with such potentially dire consequences, as to require major interventions devoted just to this issue. More accurate and better defined data and more realistic analytical and projection models show that demand is not growing at the rates earlier estimated. Increasing urbanisation and rising incomes are reflected in a slowing down of the rate of increase in fuelwood use and in some areas, consumption is now in decline.

    Supplies are in practice, being drawn from a much wider...