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ESMAP study points toward village-level management of woodfuel resources in Chad

Used by 97 per cent of households in Chad, woodfuels (principally fuelwood and charcoal) are the country's main energy source. They are growing increasingly scarce, however, in Chad's largest city, N'Djamena (population 500,000), because of disorganized fuel harvesting and slash-and-burn agriculture in the city's environs.

An ES MAP-designed woodfuel programme may soon put the city on the road toward a more sustainable energy supply, however. The strategy, which has become the basis for an International-Development-Agency- credit project now pared by the World Bank's Sahelian department, is based on transforming the random cutting of forests around the city into a village-based system for marketing, taxing, and managing woodfuels.

This would be accompanied by measures to increase efficiency of fuel distribution and use within the city and by price and tax reforms.

Causes of the woodfuel crisis

Demand for woodfuels in Chad, some 2.4 million tons in 1990, is expected to reach 4.0 million tons by 2010, with the majority of the being pre increase coming from the urban sector. The projections are of particular concern around N'Djamena, where woodfuel reserves are depleted and the environment is threatened by desertification. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most urban households cannot afford to purchase modern energy products such as electricity, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas.

Toward a village-based strategy

An efficient and environmentally sustainable energy strategy for households emphasizes village-level control and sale of woodfuels as a key to transferring responsibility for developing and exploiting forest resources from the state to local populations. This will allow villages to manage woodfuel resources in their local catchment areas, with technical assistance in sustainable, woodfuel, harvesting practices.

On the urban side of the equation, the project would design and implement an effective distribution system for woodfuel, and strengthen the local capacity to promote production of improved woodfuel stoves by the private sector and substitution by kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas.

These targeted activities would be accompanied by price and fiscal adjustments to support sound energy use overall, such as lower taxes on modern fuels and heavy taxes on wood cut from non-managed areas.

Reproduced from The ESMAP Connection, July 1994. This article was developed with the assistance of Willem Floor; Senior Energy Planner in the Power Development, Efficiency, and Household Fuels Division of the Industry and Energy Department of ESMAP.