Charcoal and fuel wood have become important sources of energy for household and small industries with statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organisation indicates that about one-third of the world’s population still depend on these energy sources for cooking, baking, tea processing and brick-making.

Shancho Ndimuh

In one of her 2017 publications, The Charcoal Transition, FAO reveals that they has been a great increment in charcoal production within the past decades amid increasing demands by the urban populations and enterprises, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Southeast Asia and South America countries.

This phenomenon, according to FAO, has led to unsustainable wood harvesting and charcoal production. The end result of this has been increased greenhouse gas emission along the charcoal value chain, especially when charcoal is produced using inefficient technologies. “It is estimated that the traditional wood energy (fuelwood and charcoal) emits 1-2.4 gigatonnes (Gt)of carbon dioxide equivalent per year is 2-7% of total anthropogenic Green House Gas (GHG) emissions; SSA accounts for one-third of GHG emissions from wood energy,” the publication read in part.

Also, reports show that increase in fuel wood and charcoal demands has brought about wanton deforestation and forest degradation, unsustainable wood harvesting and charcoal production. Besides increasing GHG emissions, this has negative effects on natural resources like forests, water, biodiversity and soil. FAO also warns that charcoal production and consumption can have negative impacts on the respiratory health of the people, though providing income, livelihood and energy security to the people.

To avert this plight, FAO has highlighted a number of interventions that must be carried out in the charcoal value chain to mitigate climate change. The first intervention is to ensure sustainable management of forests including natural forests, planted forests and community forest through afforestation and reforestation. Also, there is to switch to alternative sources of energy like agricultural waste, wood residues and wood outside forests. Another vital intervention recommended by FAO is the need to process charcoal dust into briquettes and to use improved cook stoves amongst others.

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