|Application of Biomass-energy Technologies (Habitat, 1993)|
|I. Woodfuel production technologies|
Botswana has a land area of 582,000 sq km. The most distinctive characteristic of the land is its aridity, with unreliable rains. The population of Botswana in 1991 was estimated to be around 1,370,000 with an average annual growth rate of 3.3 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the population depend on natural woodlands for fuelwood and poles. In the eastern part of the country, where most of the population is concentrated, woodfuel supplies are being rapidly depleted, with some areas experiencing acute woodfuel scarcity.
The main woodfuel production technologies used in Botswana include: establishment of woodlots by the Government and NGOs, individual tree planting, and management of the existing natural forest.
1. Establishment of woodlots
Establishment of community woodlots was introduced in 1970 and implemented mainly by the Forestry Unit, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The main objective was to produce woodfuel and poles. The woodlots were supposed to be run by village development committees. However, there was little participation by villagers, and hence the method failed. Some of the reasons attributed to the failure of the community woodlots are: undefined distribution of the endproducts from the woodlots; lack of proper extension services to support the establishment of the woodlots; lack of experience by the local people on growing exotic species; and lack of short-term benefits to villagers commensurate with their efforts (Walker, 1990).
2. Individual tree growing
The Government and NGOs are encouraging individual tree growing through agroforestry. By the end of 1991, there were 12 government and seven NGO nurseries, which raised, in total, 300,000 seedlings for sale to individuals. Government nurseries supply mainly exotic species like eucalyptus species, while NGO nurseries tend to supply more indigenous species and fruit trees. The number of planted trees nationwide is low due to drought and the unavailability of seedlings. This has made many people in Botswana conclude that management of natural woodlands, rather than planting of trees, is the only realistic option for supplying people with woodfuel and other forest products.
3. Management of natural woodlands
Walker (1990) reported that, in the past, local chiefs were very successful in managing natural woodlands in Botswana Conservation was encouraged through the deliberate use of existing taboos and beliefs. For example, the widespread belief that heifers belonging to persons responsible for cutting indigenous species, would only produce male calves was used to ensure such species were not cut.
After independence, the powers of chiefs in many areas were delegated to government officers who had little interest in managing the natural woodlands, thus leading to uncontrolled clearing of natural woodlands.
4. Role of NGOs in woodfuel production
NGOs have been more active in promoting and implementing tree-growing activities than the Government due to an acute shortage of official forestry staff.
An NGO, the Forestry Association of Botswana (FAB), has been leading in conducting forestry research on suitable woodfuel species, establishment of tree nurseries in rural areas, management of natural woodlands and creation of mass-awareness on the need to sustain tree-growing and environmental protection at the local level. FAB has also been involved in formulating the National Conservation Strategy of Botswana In addition, it has lobbied hard to influence national forestry policies and create awareness to the urgent need to strengthen the Forestry Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture.