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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


By all indications the fuelwood paradox is a critical issue in the sustainable development of Sub-Saharan Africa. As the terms of trade of the countries of Africa deteriorate, it becomes even more difficult to allocate foreign exchange to petroleum imports and the development of new and renewable sources of energy, which are more efficient. As such, we could not agree better with Brooks that:

We cannot conceive of development without changes in the extent or nature of energy flows of Africa. And because energy is so fundamental, every one of those change flows has environmental implications. The implications of this are profound. It means that there is no such thing as a simple energy choice. They are all complex. And they will all involve trade-offs. However, some of the choices and some of the trade-offs appear to be unequivocally better than others, in the sense that they offer more development and less environmental damage. (Brooks 1986; cited in WCED 1987: 173)

Wood fuels offer least potential in economic and industrial development even though they are the predominant household fuel. In the short term, energy policies should include strategies for the production and supply of wood energy to ensure its consumption in a more sustainable manner.

To formulate an effective basis for doing this, due attention should be given to analysis of the special needs and priorities of rural populations with reference to women and community participation in identifying actions as well as decentralized energy planning. In the process of fuelwood supply, modified patterns should be determined through studies at the national level. Remunerative producer prices should also be established to satisfy urban fuelwood needs. Coupled with this, national and local programmes, including dissemination of cheap and efficient charcoal and wood-burning stoves, should be launched to reduce wood-fuel consumption.

The development of modern fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas should be more fully explored and developed. National and international institutions should be encouraged to invest in the sector. Regional cooperation could also be explored as a useful instrument for furthering this goal and for enhancing energy development and independence in SSA. This cooperation has already been demonstrated with the formation of the African Petroleum Producers' Association (APPA) in 1987. Other regional groupings, as well as multilateral institutions, could help to accelerate sustainable energy development in the region.