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close this bookSustaining the Future. Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 p.)
close this folderPart 3: Environment and resource management
close this folderThe fuelwood/energy crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentPopulation and environmental concerns
View the documentThe primary energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentProblems of the energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentThe socio-economic implications of the fuelwood crisis
View the documentStrategies to combat the fuelwood crisis Strategies to combst the fuelwood crisis
View the documentNew and renewable energy development
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences


At the core of the question of the sustainable development of SubSaharan Africa (SSA) lies the problem of development itself. Without development there is the possibility that SSA's problems will multiply. Since the 1960s its gross domestic product (GDP) has declined steadily. Higher oil prices, fluctuating agricultural commodity prices, and a lack of adequate response strategies have contributed to aggravate this situation. Excessive borrowing from international financial institutions provided funds to support infrastructural development, but the inability of SSA to service these loans has resulted in the region's present debt crisis. Other factors such as the drought of the 1980s severely affected the food and energy supplies of most countries. Further decline in these countries may tend to undermine growth in the economy. Should population growth occur without development, SSA will be compelled to exploit its resources on a non-renewable basis, thus accelerating environmental deterioration. For effective development, SSA should aim at a type of development that is sustainable.

In this connection, an important element in the developmental system is the complex issue of energy.

The countries in SSA are rich in modern energy resources. A few have large oil and natural gas reserves, some have coal, and several have hydroelectric power. Albeit, the rate of consumption of these resources is limited, per capita consumption being the lowest in the world. The main commercial energy resources consumed in SSA are petroleum (41 per cent), natural gas (14 per cent), hydroelectricity (10 per cent), and coal (35 per cent). In the total resources, including traditional fuels, wood fuel is dominant (Ardayfio 1986). All these energy forms have their environmental effect. Contemporary biomass fuel use results in deforestation and land degradation, which is associated with non-sustainable use of land resources and environment. Air pollution is also linked with the use of coal, oil, gas, and water, and with solid waste problems. Policies relating to institutions and investments are needed to improve the energy situation and reduce the environmental impact.

Hence this paper seeks to appraise the extent of the energy problem in Sub-Saharan Africa with special reference to the fuelwood crisis. The problems of the energy sector in the rural and urban areas are considered, while subsequent sections are devoted to the socioeconomic implications of the fuelwood crisis and the strategies that have so far been adopted to combat the crisis. Finally, the development of new and renewable energy is discussed before the conclusion.