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Climate smart method to support sustainable charcoal production in sub-Saharan Africa

A charcoal burner carbonizing charcoal with an earth mound kiln,whose efficiency is as low as 10 percent in a landscape consisting of farmland, grazing land and woodland remnants in Bugesera, Rwanda. Photo by Miyuki Iiyama/ICRAF

A charcoal burner carbonizing charcoal with an earth mound kiln,whose efficiency is as low as 10 percent in a landscape consisting of farmland, grazing land and woodland remnants in Bugesera, Rwanda. Photo by Miyuki Iiyama/ICRAF

Management of coppices on tree stumps that are re-sprouting has been pointed out as one of the climate smart approaches that can be used for sustainable fuelwood and charcoal production in Sub-Saharan Africa region.

A new book titled ‘Climate Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality In Practice’ authored by 86 experts from 44 institutions, launched today at the Global Landscape Forum in Lima, looks at this method—popularly known as farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR)—as one of different approaches that can be used to address sustainable charcoal production.

The authors point out that many strategies to address the woodfuel issue have had challenges due to ignorance of incentives affecting woodfuel production in the landscape context. FMNR is showing promise of addressing it.

“Despite expensive implementation of woodfuel afforestation/reforestation programmes, farmers did not invest in tree planting, and if they did, they opted for commercial poles/timber which fetches higher unit prices than woodfuels,” reads part of the chapter exploring opportunities and challenges of landscape approaches for sustainable charcoal production and use. Multi-sectoral regulatory environment affecting the woodfuel value chain often conditions marginal returns to producers, thus giving farmers few incentives to plant trees for woodfuel.

Instead, write the authors, charcoal producers generally prefer large-scale felling of slow-growing hardwood species by finding landholders who, either willingly or through coercion, allow natural trees on their lands to be cleared. This can be attributed to the lack of exclusiveness to resources under prevailing rural tenure conditions on one hand, and the low opportunity cost of labour and resources due to the lack of alternative economic opportunities in rural landscapes on the other hand.

In the contrast, FMNR, though not primarily meant to address woodfuel supply but aimed more at restoring the productivity of degraded landscapes, has proved effective in significantly improving woodfuel supply, thus filling the gap.

FMNR’s basic principles involves the following: tree stumps that are sprouting are selected based on the landowner’s needs and resources, and the young trees are protected from animals and people through physical fencing or another arrangement to demarcate protected areas from wood cutting, livestock grazing and other agricultural activities.

The method has been found to be a good example of climate-smart way to address climate change adaptation and mitigation synergies. A landscape approach seeks to address the full range of critical functions for both provision (of food, fiber, energy and so on) and healthy ecosystems.

If successfully implemented, by facilitating the moderation of regulatory/institutional frameworks through inter-sectoral/multi-stakeholder coordination across the charcoal value chains, the authors say a landscape approach will support charcoal production and also contribute to economic development, climate mitigation and adaptation, and healthy landscapes.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice was launched at the Global Landscape Forum, a side event of the UN climate conference, on 6 December.

See full program at http://worldagroforestry.org/cop20

The book:

  • Brings together for the first time a range of original research and case studies on landscape approaches for climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Specifically looks at the pathways, methods and tools needed for achieving synergy between various stakeholders, sectors and institutions at the landscape to meet multiple objectives
  • Presents new ways to bring together science, policy and practice as well as identifying specific opportunities for private sector involvement in landscape approaches

The publication is available at http://asb.cgiar.org/climate-smart-landscapes/index.html.

Related links:

Climate change blogs from ICRAF


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