SHARED knowledge to promote sustainable woodfuel

SHARED co-facilitator Ogossy Agasa explaining the rural-urban system mapping exercise. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Sabrina Chesterman

Workshops in Tanzania to better understand the context of woodfuel (charcoal and firewood) systems and plan for sustainable interventions brought together communities, governments, NGOs and businesses in three regions.

We have just returned from Tanzania where we witnessed first-hand the rapidly increasing demand for charcoal and firewood as the primary sources of energy. The charcoal sector alone in the country is worth USD 650 million a year and concern is mounting on whether production and use of woodfuel is sustainable; whether there are adequate policies and technologies in place to support the woodfuel system.

There is substantial potential to reduce the negative impacts associated with the production and use of charcoal. For example, large reductions could be made in emissions of greenhouse gases with simple interventions, such as replanting trees, improved management of woodlands and village forests, installing modern kilns for producing charcoal and using modern, cleaner cookstoves. However, in order to realize this potential, many people have to be engaged to share their knowledge and build their capacity for implementing options.

Mary Njenga (right) and workshop participants mapping a woodfuel system. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Sabrina Chesterman

To contribute to the promotion of a sustainable woodfuel industry, as part of the Scaling-up sustainable woodfuel (charcoal and firewood) systems in the Pwani, Lindi and Mtwara regions project, we conducted three regional workshops and carried out field visits to interview local experts operating along woodfuel value chains. The project is funded by the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), the operational arm of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change technology mechanism that is hosted by the UN Environment Programme and the UN Industrial Development Organisation. CTCN promotes the transfer of environmentally sound technologies for low-carbon development and climate resilience at the request of developing countries.

The three workshops were conducted 1–10 November 2017 and were officiated by representatives of administrative secretariats at regional commissioners’ offices in each region. The workshop facilitation team comprised of staff from ICRAF headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Tanzanian country office as well as from the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA). COSTECH is the National Designated Entity and TAREA is the proponent in this CTCN-supported project.

The 81 participants in the three workshops included representatives from communities, government agencies, NGOs involved in training and development as well as the private sector and media. This wide array of participants captured the range of stakeholders across the different stages of the woodfuel system and in its wider connections to both the natural landscape and livelihoods.

The Stakeholder Approach to Risk-informed and Evidence-based Decision Making (SHARED) is a tailored facilitation methodology that addresses integration across themes, scales, institutions and knowledge domains. We applied the SHARED facilitation methodology in the workshops, which included a series of structured, interactive exercises to build awareness and co-generate knowledge. Through the SHARED approach, participants viewed the woodfuel components from a systems’ perspective, consisting of four stages: 1) sourcing and harvesting wood; 2) processing wood into charcoal; 3) transport, trade and marketing; and 4) consumption and the connections that exist within the system and the larger landscape.

SHARED woodfuel workshop

Root-cause analyses and barrier evaluations showed that awareness of the system approach amongst stakeholders was low and there were limited connections between harvesters and users. There was also very low awareness of, and prioritisation given to, deforestation and management of harvesting.

During the course of each workshop, a collaborative vision of future sustainable woodfuel systems was created with recommendations for priority interventions, an action plan with training needs, content and delivery strategy and a communication strategy.

There were seven major recommendations for sustainable woodfuel systems from the three workshops in Tanzania: 1) Build awareness and conduct training on sustainable woodfuel systems, including innovations in wood production and sourcing, environmental conservation, efficient woodfuel use, enabling policies and regulations and alternative livelihoods’ options; 2) Land-use planning for sustainable wood production and harvesting; 3) Recover and reuse resources for energy production, for example, recycling sawdust, charcoal dust and wood offcuts; 4) Use improved technologies, such as kilns and cookstoves, to produce and use charcoal; 5) Establish trees on farms; 6) Create formal woodfuel associations; and 7) Link woodfuel systems to landscapes: conserve water catchments, address climate change, develop livelihoods’ options.

The report on the stakeholder-engagement process will be released in January 2018. In March 2018, training will be conducted in two phases, with the first concentrating on a trainers’ course and a second that will see the trainees transfer their knowledge to many people in their respective regions. Lessons from the first three activities of the project will be synthesised in mid-2018 and applied in developing a large-scale, multi-partner proposal to scale-up sustainable woodfuel systems in Tanzania.

Background to woodfuel

Amdala Lequava, a harvester and transporter from Mtwara, poses with his load of wood. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Sabrina Chesterman

Approximately 2.7 billion people—38% of the world’s population—rely on the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking, with 87% of this energy being provided by wood.

In Africa, more than 90% of the population relies on firewood and charcoal for cooking and heating. Charcoal is the most important energy source used for cooking by the majority of urban populations and is also one of the most commercialized resources on the continent.

In 2015, the global production of wood charcoal was estimated at 52 million tonnes, with 62% produced in Africa. The sector is worth USD 11 billion, employing over 7 million people, and by 2030 will reach USD 12 billion and employ 12 million.

This scale is associated with negative impact, such as emission of greenhouse gases through loss of biomass, transportation, conversion of wood into charcoal (carbonization) and burning for use. In addition, unsustainable production and use can result in deforestation, with impact on water, soils, biodiversity and human health (inhalation of smoke from inefficient cooking systems). Through collaborative stakeholder engagement and co-design of interventions and action planning it is hoped this project will urgently address the need to create a sustainable woodfuel system in Tanzania.

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