«Burning with Enthusiasm: Fuelwood Scarcity in Tanzania in Terms of Severity, Impacts and Remedies Fred Håkon Johnsen 1. Introduction Deforestation ...»
FORUM FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES
NO. 1 – 1999
Burning with Enthusiasm:
Fuelwood Scarcity in Tanzania
in Terms of Severity, Impacts
Fred Håkon Johnsen
Deforestation and fuelwood scarcity are problems that have attracted a
great deal of attention in Tanzania. Former President Julius K. Nyerere
described the situation with the following words (Mnzava, 1981: 745):
Large areas of our country have already been denuded of trees and still people cut without planting. We are beginning to feel the effects but not everyone has yet made the connection between water shortage alternating with flooding and tree cutting in which we causally indulge. We in Tanzania still have time to avoid dis- aster if we take action now.
In the Tanzanian context fuelwood is a main concern in any discussion on energy. This is obvious from the fact that 88 per cent of the total energy consumption in Tanzania is estimated to be firewood and 4 per cent charcoal, leaving only 7 per cent for petroleum and 1 per cent for electricity from hydropower (Mnzava, 1990). Surprisingly, the overwhelming importance of fuelwood has not always been well understood. In a world-wide assessment of energy resources done in 1979, a 23 page country study of Tanzania didn’t even mention fuel- wood (WENDS, 1979).
Opinions differ widely on essential issues such as to what extent fuelwood consumption causes deforestation, whether or not there is a fuelwood crisis, and what measures to employ in order to improve the availability of household energy.
This article discusses the severity of the fuelwood shortage in 107 Fred Håkon Johnsen Tanzania. In literature fuelwood shortage is described as a problem for two different reasons. First, fuelwood gathering has been described as a major cause of deforestation and environmental degradation.
Second, there are social impacts of inadequate supply of household energy. Both these kinds of impacts are discussed.
Many measures against fuelwood scarcity have been suggested and implemented with great enthusiasm. The discussion in this paper shows that most such measures have not had any significant impact on environmental degradation or availability of energy. The discussion of remedies to alleviate fuelwood scarcity is limited to directly energy- related interventions including investments in woody biomass produc- tion, introduction of improved stoves, and switching from fuelwood to other energy sources. An alternative approach was suggested by Hofstad (1990), who claims that agricultural development and reduced population growth would be the most important contributions to reducing deforestation and fuelwood scarcity. In a more recent work (Hofstad, 1997) he also suggested that road construction and insecure land tenure are important driving forces behind deforestation. Such causes and measures, relating to the general development of the society, are not the focus of this article.
The article is limited to fuelwood for household use. This is the overall dominating use of fuelwood, as 85 per cent of the total energy consumption in the country takes place within the households (Mnzava, 1990). Some fuelwood, however, is used for village industries, including tobacco curing, burning bricks, lime and cement making, fish smoking, baking, local beer brewing, tea drying and village metal works, while relatively small amounts of fuelwood are being used for large scale industrial activities (Mnzava, 1981). Out of these activities, tobacco curing is a process reported to pose a real threat to forests (Ishengoma, 1987).
In this article, firewood is defined as woody biomass used for fuel without processing, in contrast to charcoal. Fuelwood or woodfuel is a concept covering both firewood and charcoal.
2. How Severe is the Fuelwood Problem?
1. Fuelwood supply and demand Until recently, estimates of demand and supply of fuelwood in Tanzania tended to be utterly pessimistic. One typical report estimated the annual fuelwood consumption at 35 million m3, while only 19 million m3could be harvested on a sustainable basis (Ishengoma, 1987).
108 Burning with Enthusiasm: Fuelwood Scarcity in Tanzania A thorough study by Hosier et al. (1990) indicated that the situation may not be all that bad. Four different regionalised fuelwood balance studies for Tanzania were compared. Though the four studies used the same methodology, the results seemed rather conflicting. Out of Tanzania’s 20 regions, the number of regions that faced a fuelwood deficit varied from 6 to 15 within the four studies. Moreover, the total fuelwood balance for the country was positive (i.e. increment larger than consumption) in two of the studies, and negative in the two others.
One conclusion by Hosier et al. (1990) was that the emphasis on wood balance ‘tends to exaggerate the need for action, ignoring the capabilities of the local population to respond to a wood shortage’.
Even if the consumption may not exceed yield at national level, local fuelwood shortages do occur. As Munslow et al. (1988: 11) put it, ‘supply-and-demand balances and projections hide a complex pattern of surplus and deficit. Fuelwood shortages occur in pockets or mosaics of varying levels of stress’.
Consequently, it may not make much sense to talk about a national fuelwood crisis. Fuelwood shortages can only be described and handled in a meaningful way on a local level. Quantitative assessments of local fuelwood consumption have been made in a sample of 15 villages in the semi-arid area of Tanzania (FAO, 1984), in a sample of 12 villages representing 9 regions (Nkonoki, 1983), in Dar es Salaam (Mnzava, 1985; Andersson and Holm, 1990), in Morogoro (Ngowi, 1986), in Zanzibar town (Masoud, 1990), in Sumbawanga town (Sabuni, 1990) and in Hai district of Kilimanjaro region (Ishengoma et al., 1992). The results varied widely, from around 1 m 3 to more than 3 m3 of firewood per person per year, suggesting that people adjust their consumption patterns in response to the availability.
The total impact of fuelwood scarcity can be separated into environmental impacts and social impacts, as expressed in a seminar on national energy policy for Tanzania in 1990 (Kilahama, 1991): ‘The development of national energy policy in relation to woodfuels can be
summarised in two objectives:
i) to decrease pressure on the already overexploited traditional sources of wood supply in order to avoid further environmental degradation; and ii) to reduce the household fuel bill for many people who are forced to spend over 30 per cent of their income on domestic energy alone.’
2. The environmental impact of fuelwood consumption Fuelwood gathering has been mentioned as an important cause, and 109 Fred Håkon Johnsen often the most important cause, of deforestation. One example is Misana (1988: 111), who estimated the Tanzanian annual fuelwood demand at 40.2 million m3 while the annual increment was only 19.6 million m3. The deficit of 20.6 million m3 was according to Misana ‘to be met by over-exploiting the few existing forests causing a deforestation rate of 400 000 hectares’.
This view has been seriously challenged. A broad assessment of the fuelwood situation in the SADCC region concluded that rural subsistence households do not, broadly speaking, cause deforestation (Bhagavan, 1984: 25). They gather fuelwood ‘on and in the vicinity of the farm, from land lying fallow, not from forests’. Bhagavan argued further that the subsistence farmer does not cut down a tree to obtain firewood; at most he or she breaks off branches from it. Instead, the dominant causes for deforestation are charcoal production, firewood for curing tobacco and tea, timbering, and clearing land for agriculture.
Ramadhani (1989) studied four villages in Dodoma Rural District and found land clearing for agriculture to be by far the most important driving force behind deforestation, though commercial charcoal making, grazing by livestock and fuelwood collection also had some impact.
Lundgren and Lundgren (1983) pointed out three major forces enhancing the deforestation in Tanzania: The villagisation programme which has concentrated the pressure on the forests, the fast population growth in the mountain area and the expansion of agricultural uses such as tobacco, which needs firewood for curing. The effect of the villagisation programme has been explained more in detail by Kihiyo (1991) and Kikula (1997).
To conclude about the deforestation issue, there seem to be strong indications that firewood gathering is not the most important cause.
The fact that there are other important forces seems to be recognised by the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Tourism (1989,
annex 4: 6):
Supply-demand gap models therefore tend greatly to overestimate the contribution of woodfuels to deforestation, and hence the need for energy-focused remedies for it. If all woodfuel consumption ceased tomorrow, deforestation in Tanzania would not be halted.
The production of charcoal for sale is probably a much more severe cause of deforestation than firewood gathering for home consumption in rural areas, because charcoal burners cut the whole tree. It has been estimated that 4354 ha of woodland are cleared per year in order to 110 Burning with Enthusiasm: Fuelwood Scarcity in Tanzania supply Dar es Salaam with charcoal (Monela et al., 1993).
Apart from the general concern about deforestation, there is also a worry that rare habitats are threatened. An assessment of coastal forests in Tanzania showed that the total remaining area of such forests may be less than 400 km2 (Burgess et al., 1992). These forests are described as habitats for globally important flora and fauna, which may be completely removed. The forests are being destroyed, ‘following the sequence (a) logging for timber and fuel; (b) pole-cutting to build houses; (c) wholesale burning for charcoal; (d) wholesale conversion to agriculture.’
3. The welfare effect of fuelwood scarcity In rural areas, firewood is normally not a commodity which the average household would consider buying in the market. Welfare effects of reduced fuelwood supply are therefore indicated by the time spent for fuelwood gathering rather than by monetary measures. Too much time spent on fuelwood gathering may have serious implications on the welfare, particularly of women and small children. It has been reported that ‘because of overworking and walking long distances, women do not have enough time to cook for children at least three times a day, even when food is available’ (Mongela, 1991: 84).
In the survey by FAO (1984), village averages of walking distances for firewood collection ranged from 2.5 to 4.2 km, with a median of
3.1 km. Village averages of time spent per trip ranged from two and a half hours to four hours, and the number of trips per week from 1.3 to
3.9. The village averages of total time per week spent on fuelwood collection ranged from 2.6 hours to 10.7 hours.
Helmfrid and Persson (1987) reported from Karatu, Arusha that women and children spent up to eight hours to bring home a backload of firewood. This is probably an extreme case. In his survey of 12 villages distributed on 9 regions, Nkonoki (1983) found that the average villager spent a total of 5.77 hours on bringing home 3 bundles of firewood per week. In Nkonoki’s survey, only 7 per cent of the households had more than 5 km distance to the firewood.
Rajeswaran (1983) found that the labour cost of firewood collection for one family was TShs1 821 per year, when using the minimum wage rate as a shadow price on labour. The corresponding cost for charcoal bought on the market was TShs 2190 per year and for kerosene TShs 4873 per year.
11. The Tanzanian Shilling (TShs) had a relatively stable official value at around 12 TShs to 1 US$ during the first half of the 1980s. After deregulation of the currency market, the official value of Tshs dropped dramatically.
111 Fred Håkon Johnsen
In exceptional cases, firewood has a monetary market even in rural districts. As an example, Johansson (1991: 25) reported from Babati that fuelwood is sold in the villages with prices ranging from 30 to 70 TShs per headload.
In the towns, fuelwood is certainly a market commodity. However, there is no single Tanzanian market price for fuelwood. The price varies greatly depending on location, season, amounts bought, and also the quality of the fuelwood.
Nkonoki (1983) found firewood prices ranging from TShs 1.50-2 per bundle in rural Kondoa to TShs 8-10 in Kinodoni town. Prices of charcoal ranged from TShs 3-4 in rural Kondoa to TShs 12-15 in Kinodoni town.
In their study of Hai district in Kilimanjaro region, Ishengoma et al.
(1992) found the price of fuelwood to range from TShs 500 to TShs 1600 per m3, with an average of TShs 1000. The charcoal price varied from TShs 400 to TShs 700 per bag of approximately 28 kg, with an average of TShs 560.
Ishengoma (1984) surveyed Morogoro town and found that those who buy charcoal in small amounts pay more than twice as much per unit as those who buy whole bags. Ishengoma also observed a price increase of 30-50 per cent during the heavy rains.
The income share spent on fuelwood is even more interesting for understanding the socio-economic implications than the fuelwood prices cited above. According to Chandrasekharan and Davis (1986: 1), an average family in Dar es Salaam spent 20-25 per cent of its income on fuelwood. Nkonoki (1983) found that a poor urban dweller used 28-34 per cent of his income on fuel, while the rural poor spent 12-18 per cent. People with higher income spent a lower percentage on fuel.
Following standard economic theory, serious resource scarcity is indicated by a sharp rise in the price of that particular resource. Such an increase in price has been observed in Zanzibar where firewood is the most important energy source (Masoud 1990: 80). The annual increase in the firewood price in the period 1985-1989 was 37 per cent, while the nominal growth of household income was only 22.6 per cent. This caused an increase in the share of household income needed for an adequate fuelwood supply from 25 per cent in 1985 to 40 per cent in 1989.