|Boiling Point No. 12 - April 1987 (ITDG, 1987, 36 p.)|
By Mick Howes
Increasing numbers of households in rural Bangladesh are experiencing fuel shortages. This article explores who they are; why their problems arise; what form they take; and the extent to which the introduction of improved cooking stoves might provide a solution.
It is based on a short but intensive investigation of four communities in Mymensingh District. These do not represent the country as a whole, but at least convey a sense of the diversity of conditions which may arise. Two lay close to the district town, whilst the others were located in a more remote area 40 kilometres away. One community in each pair is flood-prone with only a single crop being cultivated on most of the -land, and the other is on higher ground where two crops can generally be grown each year.
Fuels and Stoves
The fuels in most common use are:
fuelwood - which is obtained from trees cut from the small areas of higher land surrounding homesteads;
jute sticks - which arise as a by-product of jute cultivation;
branches and twigs - which are produced either as a by-product of the trees felled for fuel and other purposes, or gathered by women and children;
paddy and other crop residues - which come most frequently in the form of paddy, and other straws of inferior quality which are not required for roofing or fodder, but may also include rice husks;
leaves and weeds - which are gathered from homes,eacs and common land; dung - which is collected from fields and used in combination with sticks or husks.
For a number of reasons, the fuels a" the top of the list are more popular than those appearing lower down. They can be collected more quickly, are of relatively high density and hence are easy to store; emit an intense heat which speeds the cooking process; burn slowly, allowing the fire to be left unattended for considerable oeriods, and create little smoke.
Villagers report that fuel consumption varies considerably from one season to another. Precise patterns are a function of location and availability but, in general, jute sticks and paddy residues are used shortly after they have been harvested whilst wood and branches are retained for the wet season. The less favoured twigs and leaves are used to fill any gaps which may remain during the dry season when the supply of preferred alternatives has been exhausted.
A number of different types of stoves are used. Some are built into the ground with hollowed out combustion chambers. These may be either flat-topped, or with three corner supports upon which a pot can be balanced; the former being used for parboiling as well as cooking. Women usually cook in the open, but when conditions are windy or wet, they work indoors - normally using the flat-looped stove since this reduces exposure to smoke in a confined space. A few households have portable earthen stoves which can be used either in or out of doors.
The Extent and E fee's of Fuel Shortages
Clear evidence of fuel shortages can be found in all of the villages investigated, with many households being reduced to using the least preferred fuels for a significant period each year. It is also clear that the degree of dependence upon inferior fuels is increasing, and the average per capita fuel consumption by weight is declining.
Shortages are most pronounced, and a-e developing most rapidly, in peri-urban locations. This reflects the additional burden imposed he-e to competition from industrial and urban domestic consumers. There is also less marked tendency 'or shortages to arise in flood-prone locations where the risk of crop loss, and reduced residue availability, is greater.
But of far greater significance than any variations in consumption arising be-weep locations, are the contrasts within locations between rich and poor. Landless households, which comprise at least half of the total in each village, feel the effects of shortage much more severely than other classes, and have had to make far greater adjustments in terms of the quality and amounts of fuel used, as shortages have begun to take effect.
A variety of factors are responsibie, most of which car. be traced back to the failure of increases in biomass production to keep pace with the growth in population. The sub-division of larger lane holdings have severely squeezed the area of lane upon which trees were previously grown as well as leading - directly and indirectly - to the elimination of the residue surpluses from richer households which were previously available for re-distribUtion to the poor. Less land is now given to share-cropping closing off another source of access to fuel to those without resources of their own; and abourers who would previously have been provided with cooked meals in part payment on increasingly have to find the fuel to prepare food for themselves.
Is the poorer households have substituted own to inferior fuels, the greater part of he burden has fallen on the women and hildren, who have conventionally been responsible for their collection. These fuels take longer to gather and to cook with, and create more smoke - which, in urn, has harmful effects upon women's health.
In principle, there are a number of possible solutions to the problem of fuel shortages. Supply could be increased through the introduction of practices for tne cultivation of homestead plots which would field more fuel, and it might also prove possible to modify cropping patterns with a similar end in mine. In certain circumstances, crops might be grown purely or use as fuel, particularly on field boundaries. The efficiency with which fuel isconverted into useful energy might be improved through the introduction of biogas rants or improved stoves. Competing emends for village biomass fuels might be reduced through the introduction of substitutes.
The difficulty with most of these solutions isthat they take little account of a social reality, where those best placed to take action have least incentive to do so. It is interesting to note, however, that stoves do at conform to this general pattern, in so are as adoption is possible for those with own control over land; and requires only a nail financial outlay, which should be withim the reach of those who need them most.
The indiscriminate introduction of new signs would be unlikely to have much impact, however. What is ideally required ; a programme which:
- focuses initially on peri-urban and flood-prone locations where shortages are most severe;
- is designed to work best with the types of fuel which poor people use, or would use i´- reduced levels of consumption could be assured through more efficient conversion;
- is suitable for use both within and outside the house.
Much a programme would not remove the fuel problems of poor rural people which are reply embedded in the present structure of economic and social relationships, and not enable to solution by purely technical ens. It would, however, appear more kely to ameliorate the most serious sequences of shortage than any of the her energy related interventions which are available.
This article summarises the findings of:
Michael Howes and M.A. Jabbar; "Rural Fuel Shortages in Bangladesh'' (IDS Discussion Paper No. 213, March 1986)
Copies may be obtained from:
IDS Publications Institute of Development Studies University of Sussex Brighton BNl 9RE
Price £1.25 + £0.25 p+p
Residue Utilization: A Recent Example from Africa
Author: Josef Leitmann
Household Energy Division.
The joint World Bank/UNDP Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) has been conducting pre-investment studies on improved biomass utilization for the energy sector. Recently, as part of this larger program, several promising projects have been identified for using agricultural and agro-industrial residues in African countries. This article briefly reviews the results of the study concerning use of agricultural residues for household energy in Ethiopia. Similar reviews of studies on agro-industrial wastes for power generation in Cote d'Ivoire, and bagasse for electric power in Mauritius have been prepared and may be available from the author.
ETHIOPIA: AGRICULTURAL RESIDUE BRIQUETTES AS A HOUSEHOLD AND INDUSTRIAL FUEL
Agricultural residues from small farms are currently being used as a fuelwood substitute throughout Ethiopia. At least 3,300,000 metric tons of surplus coffee, cotton, wheat and maize residues are produced annually, although not all are economically accessible. Concentrated quantities are found on Slate-owned farms and processing facilities where excess residues are accessible and form a potential fuel source. This unused surplus amounts to a conservatively estimated potential of nearly 600,000 tons, which is equivalent to over 640,000 tons of fuelwood, or around 50% of annual household fuel demand in Addis Ababa.
A sizeable market for densified agricultural residues exists, given the current household and industrial demand and pricing structure. In the household sector, firewood, animal dung, crop residues and charcoal accounted for 993 of fuel consumption, or 22 million tons of wood equivalent (TWE) in 1982. By 1992, this is expected to climb to 29 million TWE, of which 22 million TWE will represent a deficit beyond sustainable supply. In the target household market (the Addis Ababa pert-urban area), the biomass fuel deficit will be 940,000 TWE, or 747,000 tons of densified residues. In the industrial sector, total energy consumption -or process heat is equivalent to a potential demand for 338,000 tons of densified residues. However, 224,000 tons technicaly substituted for other capital investments.
Cotton stalk briquettes can be produced for 582 per tonne; with an additional $39/tonne to cover transportation, they have a delivered priced in Addis Ababa of $114/tonne. On a useful energy basis for households, the cost of cotton stalk briquettes is $25.40/GJ.
The World Bank is now financing several pilot projects to produce agricultural residue briquettes from coffee, cotton stalk, wheat straw and maize residues, in that order of priority. The $6 million project entails collection, processing, densification, packaging, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution. In financial terms, all of the proposed briquetting plants produce a competitive household fuel priced at less than half the useful energy cost of charcoal. When fuelwood is taken as the comparator, then the coffee residues currently have a lower useful energy cost, with the other residues becoming competitive in the near future (see Fig. l). In economic terms, all types of briquettes have a much lower cost of useful energy than kerosine, which is the comparative fuel with guaranteed availability. For industrial use, residue briquettes can be produced and delivered to users in Addis Ababa at a lower cost than most industrial fuels (fuel oil, fuelwood charcoal and electricity). Economically, cotton and maize briquettes are more expensive than fuel oil but less than the other fuels. Thus, agricultural residue briquettes are a viable economic alternative to increasingly scarce and costly fuelwood for both domestic and industrial fuel.
Most agricultural residues can be used as a fuewood substitute in loose form. However' for reasons relating to transport, storage, marketing and cookstove or industrial boiler design, residue use can be enhanced and expanded through densification. For example, the cost of straw to the capital from 300 km away would be a prohibitive USS 144/ton while transportation charges for a ton of wheat straw briquettes would be only $45. The abi1ity to produce a marketable, densified fuel depends on the densification technology, chemical composition of the residues, their burning characteristics, delivering baled wheat social/technical acceptability and their selling price. Regarding choice of technology, high-pressure briquetting results in a densified fuel with physical caracteristics that are quite similar to xeisting domestic fuels and can also substitute for solid or liquid fuels in pilers with - little or no equipment modification in many cases.
SMAP and the World Bank Energy Department are currently evaluating biomass energy projects in a number of African and other developing countries. Information was drawn from the following ESMAP reports:
Ethiopia: Agricultural Residue Briaetting Pilot Projects for Substitute Household and Industrial Fuels, Report No. 062A/86, ESMAP, December 1986.
Cote d'Ivoire: Improved Biomass Utilization - Pilot Projects using Agro-Industrial Residues for the Energy Sector, ESMAP, April 1987.
Mauritius: Bagasse power Potential, 1987-2000, ESMAP May 1987.
Leitmann's article deals with the use of agricultural residues for industrial or electricity generation purposes rather than or the village housewife. It estimates a 192 Ethiopian domestic fuel shortage of 22m WE) and proposes to take residues from round the country to meet the Addis Ababa for age of lm (TWE) presumeably because of the ease of marketing and the ability of people to pay higher prices - or perhaps it will be bought by industry. The provincial eas will have lm (TWE) less fuel available for their kitchens.
The World Banks's $6m project in Ethiopia will establish large centres for briquette production to which residues will be-transported. Use as a fuel in villages and small towns would involve further transport in Ethiopia's inadequate roads and would result in a selling price beyond the reach in the poor rural housewife. The alternative, of small, low cost briquetting using locally available materials and employing and supplying local people does appear to have been investigated by the hank .