|GATE - 1985/4 - Renewable Energy - Biogas (GTZ GATE, 1985, 56 p.)|
Forestry and Rural Energy in Developing Countries
by K. Krishna Prasad
This short essay is concerned with the organization of forestry schemes as a means of providing for the energy needs in rural areas of the developing countries. The arguments developed in the essay are based on three interconnected premises. Firstly, energy policies for rural areas conceived in isolation of development needs are bound to be counter-productive. Secondly, development in rural areas is equivalent to the creation of purchasing power in the population through productive activity. Finally, the service sector in rural areas is organized as part and parcel of each individual family. Thus, water and fuel, two of the basic needs are "gathered" directly by the use of unpaid family labour.
The present essay stems from the contention that neither the national government planning bodies in developing countries nor the aid agencies are equal to handling a large number of small procjets. In fact these small projects seem essential if renewable energy systems have to play a role in the development of small rural communities. The proposal presented here is an attempt to bridge the global perceptions of a planner/aid-giver and the realities of development project executions.
Conventional approaches to afforestation
It is possible to discern three broad approaches to tackle afforestation in developing countries.
The first approach is to develop plantations of 1,000 hectares or more dedicated to the supply of fuel wood. Several merits commend this approach. It lends itself admirably to a high degree of mechanization and productivity of labour is quite high. It is possible to borrow ideas from successful plantations for supplying raw material for forest based industries like paper and pulp for rayon. In particular by virtue of the size of the undertaking, it is easy to conceive of management systems that can provide adequate technical and managerial expertise for running the enterprise effectively.
However, there is an equal number of disadvantages to the approach. Firstly, such large schemes require considerable initial investments. The management of such schemes are under pressure to produce reasonable returns on investments. Thus the schemes tend to overemphasize the commercial aspects of output and sale. Under such conditions, the first casualty is the need of the poor who can not back their needs by adequate purchasing power. Secondly, mechanization takes the central place in the scheme of things. It places constraints on forestry design, species selection and employment patterns. All these act against the interests of the poor. Finally, such large chunks of land will not be close enough to sizable rural population agglomerations. Thustransport costs of wood in its raw form will become yet another deterrent fo the supply of fuel to the poor. Thus asolution, known to work very well in many circumstances, appears to suffer from serious limitations from the point of view of reaching the rural poor. However, such schemes might be quite effective in supplying char coal for urban/pert-urban areas.
The second approach is that of the so-called agroforestry. The idea is simply to incorporate forestry into present agricultural practices. This is very attractive since trees could be grown in small parcels of land that may be unused and regions of land like boundaries of farms could be extremely effective in producing fuel wood. The main difficulty here lies in persuading the large number of small cultivators to tailor their traditional practices to changing circumstances From all reports that are available now, agricultural extension service in most of the developing countries has not been an unqualified success. It seems that it is unrealistic to expect that a similar service for forestry will produce the results necessary to over come the present fuel wood shortages.
The third approach being actively considered is the community forestry Experience with this approach is very small. It requires dedicated leadership at the individual village level. Such leadership is obviously scarce. If such leadership were available, rural areas would not have been in the present unhappy state. It seems quite improbable that the necessary leadership could be made to emerge in the name of growing fuel wood.
The purpose of the short review is to indicate that the prospects for forestry to meet the growing fuel wood demands of rural poor with the conventional approaches do not sound very encouraging.
In this a fourth alternative to the forestry scheme is considered. The scheme attempts to explicitly take into account four important features of the problem.
Forests, like many other renewable energies, are a distributed source of energy. Energy consumption invariably occurs in a highly distributed form. Forests and other renewable energy systems provide an opportunity to match the magnitude of the production system with the consumption pattern in a spatial sense, consistent with other requirements. Continuity of a scheme can be assured only if it has the prospect of becoming ultimately a viable commercial enterprise.
The scheme, if it has to be viewed sympathically both by the populations and national governments concerned, has to contribute to the development process. One way of ensuring this is to see that the schemes do create employment opportunities in the rural areas.
Success of schemes of this type are contingent upon the availability of continuously improved inputs with time. The two major inputs are technical and managerial expertise.
The concept used here is the franchising system, very much similar to the practice followed in fast food outlets in Western cities. Used in connection with forestry, it could be called the contract farming. However, we prefer to call it franchising because of several other considerations that will become clear later. There are two parties to the system: the franchiser (or better, the franchising company) and the franchisees. The franchising company services a large number of franchisees.
The franchising company is responsible for:
- identifying prospective franchisees;
- providing them with information about proper methods of apportioning land between agriculture and forestry (if the franchisee owns land); if the franchisee does not own enough land, indicates to him possibilities of leasing land;
- providing the franchisees with seeds/seedlings;
- indicating harvesting techniques (if necessary providing them with appropriate tools either on purely a hire basis or hire-purchase basis);
- suggesting sound marketing principles;
- buying a certain amount of produce from the franchisee;
- carrying out research as it is directly applicable to the area of operation of the company:
- providing the appropriate training for the franchisees;
- making easy credit accessible to the franchisees; etc., etc.
The franchisee is required to:
- put in an initial risk capital;
- hiring wage labour (part of which may be of franchisee/franchisee's family);
- raise, harvest and market the fuel wood (partially on local markets);
- pay a fee for the franchising company for its services; etc., etc.
The above are indicative functions. They obviously can be expected to vary with local situations.
The principal merit of the approach lies in its ability to combine the virtues of smallness of an individual entrepreneur with the muscle of the large which has the ability to attract talent and money to achieve difficult objectives.
The second constraint has to do with the long maturation period involved with forests. It is true, for example, that a farmer deciding to raise vegetables with windmill irrigation can see the results of his investment and labour in months' time. It is easy to show that such a comparison is invalid if we extend the argument, say, to 10,000 farmers. The thesis here is that such an extension will take an equally long time to mature. It has to be accepted that there is no energy system - be it based on fossils or renewables - that is amenable to quick-fix solutions. One thing can be said in favour of forests: the probability is quite high that every village can have its own forest. The argument above is not to be construed as discrediting windmill technology. It is a plea to consider the problems of energy and development as one that involves large numbers of people.
Another comment in connection with the long maturation of trees is appropriate here. A great deal of forestry expertise lies in growing timber, and not fuel wood. Fuel wood needs to be no more than 2 to 3 cm in diameter and a maximum length of 20 cm. In fact dramatic reductions in wood consumption are feasible with only thin, short sticks of woods used in efficient stoves. Trees catering to this application could be grown in a much denser pack. These will be ready for harvesting in 2 to 3 years' time as against 7 to 10 years of rotation periods for conventional timber trees. In addition if one grows wood sticks, harvesting and processing of wood after harvesting can be done with less exacting technologies. Thus these ideas need to be incorporated into the forestry schemes before arguing about their long maturation periods.
The third constraint concerns the availability of entrepreneurial talent in rural areas. We will look at this constraint from two points of view. Population statistics for the developing countries show that the growth rates of large cities are much higher than is seen for the total country. This is due to migration from rural areas. Most of these rural migrants disappear into the so-called informal sector, working for "own-account" business. Clearly, this could be considered as a proof of the desire on the part of the rural population (at least those who migrate) to involve themselves in entrepreneurial activity. These people do not see any opportunity for carrying out such activities in and around their homes. This leads us to the next view-point: the development view-point. Two important functions of development policy ought to be:
- to provide opportunities for whatever entrepreneurial talent that exists in rural areas to stay there and practise it; and
- to provide for growth, both in quantity and quality, of such talent.
These two will go a long way in assisting in the diversification of employment patterns as well as replacing present disorganized efforts of subsistence living by organized efforts of productive life in rural areas. The point being made here is that while there may be no talent in a village to nun a "modern" business, it is incorrect to assume that there is no talent to run a 10-hectare forest plantation in a village.
Any fuel wood scheme intending to serve rural areas faces a number of constraints. These are:
- competition for land and labour between agriculture and forestry;
- long maturation period for forestry;
- lack of entrepreneurial talent in rural areas; and finally the all important question of financing.
These are genuine problems associated with development and are not forestry problems per se as we will attempt to show below. In what follows, we take two things for granted. The first is that there is no genuine alternative to fuel wood for supplying rural domestic energy from the point of view of cost. Secondly, forests are essential for protecting the environment. We will examine the constraints in the light of these statements.
The competition for land and labour for agriculture and forestry is really a question associated with the productivity of land and labour. If this is so, it seems advantageous to accord priority to agriculture over forestry. Unfortunately it is not clear that improvement in agriculture could be effected at sufficiently rapid rate so that one could afford to ignore the consequence of deforestation on the environment. Therefore there appears to be no way but to carry out the improvements in agriculture and forestry more or less simultaneously. What is required is to apportion the available resources according to presently known empirical evidence. At any rate forests, when coupled with superior stoves, can generate surplus energy which can contribute to the increased productivity from agriculture.
The above line of argument leads to a puzzling question. If forests are so good and entrepreneurial ability exists in rural areas, how come commercial forestry has not come about in extenso, if at all. The reasons for this are complex. In essence there is a vicious circle operating here. The existing private forestry systems do not see any money in fuel wood production. They can not see money since they do not interpret their activity as leading to employment generation. Unless additional employment is generated, there is no overall excess in purchasing power in rural communities. Under these circumstances the poor will have to rely on fuel gathering to meet their energy needs. There probably exist some private forests in many parts of the world; but most of them either cater to fuel needs of urban areas or produce other commercially attractive forest products.
We now turn to the problem of financing of forestry schemes in rural areas. The main issue here is the rather slow rate of return on investments. These are two mitigating factors: firstly a certain amount of investments are already going on; and secondly, environmental arguments could be used to permit increases of these investments. The rate of return on investments argument, as seen by a private investor, is generally invalid for things like energy and development. The assumption made in this essay is that investments on forests and development will pay in the long run. This brings us to the final point. Since the constraints mentioned above act as deterrents for private investment, and since the job needs to be done, there seems to be no alternative to public financing. The difficulty here is two-fold. The first concerns the allocation of scarce public resources. The scope of the present essay is rather limited and we shall not consider this here. We have made a tacit assumption that some public resources are available for energy and forests, in particular. This leads in to the second difficulty - that of marrying the dynamics of the private initiative with the needs of accountability which is characteristic of public financing. In this connection, attempts in the developing countries to set up companies wholly owned by governments, have shown a patchy performance. The protagonists of this system argue that failure of such companies is not due to any inherent fault of the system (there are success stories to back this claim), but due to the incorrect choice of product and technology (for example, steel and fertilizers in India). The detractors point out the inadequacy of corporate talent in the developing countries as the reason for such systems not working up to expectations. The available information is of such a nature that two analysts could arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions depending upon the aim of the analyst. This is not surprising given the diversity of opinion that exists in the whole field of energy and development.
The discussion presented in this section brings out that the evidence taken as a whole needs to be examined in the overall context of development. This context and the requirement of prevention of further environmental degradation have led us to the assertion that the constraints are more imaginary than real.
Finally, a comment seems necessary to justify the use of the franchising system as against the regular forestry service to establish forests in villages. Emphasis on development oriented approach makes the time scales even larger than those for fuel wood oriented schemes. Given this, it is essential to design systems of implementation that are capable of quickly responding to changing circumstances of the populations concerned and/or changing technologies. It is the present author's belief that a franchising system holds the greatest promise in this regard. A discussion on this issue follows in the next section.
We shall sketch in this section some preliminary steps that need to be taken before installing the franchising system. In order to get an appreciation for the franchising system, there is a need to understand the costing of a product and its relation to rural problems.
In general the cost of a product is composed of many elements. In many rural technology evaluations it is faultily assumed that labour and materials are the only two components of the cost. In fact they represent at most a third of the cost. The engineering involved in bringing a product to the manufacturing stage and marketing of the product contribute to the cost. When a product is quite complex, one usually has to account for maintenance costs. Then there is the cost of training. In an advanced economy this and many other services are paid for in the form of a variety of taxes. In an underdeveloped economy, the training item can be quite substantial. Finally, there is the cost of the management. There are two ways of reducing the cost of a product. One is by making large number of a standardized product or by diversifying the product range.
At least to this author, it appears that much of the rhetoric behind "development science" with its slogan of basic needs strategy seems to ignore this point. The rural economies in developing countries are such that the mass produced product, however essential it may be, will not be bought in sufficient numbers simply because of inadequate purchasing power. Thus the mass production unit can not hope to become economical in these circumstances. Thus if an industrial system has to become economical, it has to first create the appropriate climate of purchasing power among the rural population. This can only happen by locating the industrial unit in the village proper. The market in such a case will perforce be small. In addition the productivity of the labour has to increase. Two difficulties arise with the application of these considerations. Firstly, a certain amount of outside technical inputs are necessary and secondly, some marketing outlet is necessary for the excess produce. This is where the franchising company concept is a powerful tool.
The franchising company can be conceived to service a large number of independent village units manufacturing a single product. Because we demand productivity increase and because of geographical constraints (the communication problem of a very widely spread out system can become a limitation), it is wiser for the franchising company to work with a diversified product range. We shall apply these concepts to the forestry problem considered in this essay.
The franchising company in this first place has to operate seed banks and nurseries to service a larger number of franchisees. It has to replace the presently used harvesting tools with more efficient ones (not necessarily power driven). It should suggest methods of postharvest processing of wood mainly drying and cutting into small pieces. The latter job is relatively simple if sticks are raised instead of big logs (as will be the case with conventional forestry practice).
Next, the entrepreneur has to have a surplus from his production system. This surplus can not be generated through bringing more land under forestry because of land scarcity. An important way of generating this surplus is by introducing improved wood stoves. The franchising company can set up again small entrepreneurs in a few places to manufacture these stoves. The forestry franchisees could be used as a sales outlet for the stoves. The employees of the entrepreneur would be potential customers for the stoves. Some form of hire-purchase scheme would probably push the sales of stoves. The franchising company should be responsible for arranging this.
The franchising company has to buy back certain produce from the forestry entrepreneur. The entrepreneur should be made to clearly understand that he should sell part of the produce in the village concerned. The franchising company has to shoulder the responsibility of disposing of the excess produce. One way to do this is convert wood to charcoal, which again could be franchised out.
As can be seen from the above, the franchising company has three products from the start, wood, stoves and charcoal. With time the company could convert itself into a full-fledged rural energy utility company dealing in a diversity of products like:
- charcoal kilns coupled with brick . kilns, dryers (for coffee, tea, tobacco etc.) using the so-called co-generation concept;
- producer gas plants for water pumping, flour milling, running decentralized electricity stations; etc., etc.
Some of these technologies are understood in principle and require much more development work. The company should be on the constant look out for the results of such work.
The franchising company visualized like this is of sufficient size to afford to do a certain amount of engineering work. Managerial and marketing talent could be attracted to work with such a company rather than with a small entrepreneur.
In conclusion, an attempt is made in this essay, to construct an alternative organizational system to carry out forestry and energy projects as one specially suited to rural areas in developing countries.
The First Aymara -Spanish Dictionary
The GTZ project "Bilingual Education at the Elementary Schools in the Peruvian Highlands" has now taken a further step forwards. After several years of socio-linguistic field research as part of the project a dictionary has been produced in the Indian language Aymara. It is called the "Diccionario Aymara Castellano/Arunakan Liwri Aymara - Kastillanu".
With this dictionary the Peruvian variant of Aymara has been recorded for the first time in the history of modern Peru. The Aymaras are the second largest Indio ethnic group in Peru. They live mainly around Lake Titicaca in the Department of Puno.
This project has been in the hands of the GTZ since 1977. The agency provides four consultants who work in bilingual education together with local staff from the Pedagogical Institute of the Peruvian Ministry of Education. Their job is to investigate the mother tongue and culture of school-age children in the Quechua and Aymara areas. The aim of these investigations is to produce and try out teaching materials that are linguistically and culturally adapted to local conditions. The main subjects are Quechua, Aymara, Spanish as a foreign language, arithmetic, general studies and social studies.
The aim of educating the Indio population in their own language and culture, at the same time cautiously and systematically introducing them to the foreign national language and culture, is to enable the individual to keep and to strengthen his own sense of identity.
Second Meeting of Documentalists of SATIS Northern Members
Between 8th and 11th October 1985 the second meeting of documentalists of the Northern members of SATIS took place at GATE in Eschborn. Those who took part were representatives of TOOL (Netherlands), GRET (France), SKAT (Switzerland), A.T.I. (USA) as well as a representative of the SATIS Secretariat (Netherlands).
Apart from the general exchange of experience and discussion about questions of classification and documentation, the participants attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was being held at the same time, in order to form an idea as to whether the Fair is a suitable forum for SATIS and its members for disseminating the publications that it produces.
The results of the talks were summarized in recommendations that were submitted to the SATIS General Assembly, which was held at the beginning of December 1985 in New Delhi, India. ~
1st Argentinian Seminar on AT
From 11th-13th April 1986 a seminar on appropriate technology
will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The seminar will be organized by the
Centro de Estudios sobre Tecnologias Apropiadas de la Argentina (CETAAR), which
is a non-governmental organization consisting of several occupational
Two of the topics of the seminar are the dissemination of the AT philosophy in Argentina and the Argentinian experience in the field of appropriate technology.
For further information please contact:
CETAAR, Casilla de Correo 5182,
Correo Central (1000), Buenos Aires,