Towards Sustainable Charcoal Production and Use: a Systems Approach
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The majority of African households will continue depending on traditional fuels to meet their daily energy needs for many decades to come. In particular, the demand for charcoal in most countries in the region continues to grow at high rates owing to the ever-increasing rural-urban migration. These trends, coupled with inefficient charcoal production and consumption practices, and inaccessibility by most households to reliable and affordable commercial energy forms puts in deep uncertainty the future dependence on the already-dwindling biomass resource for energy. A systems approach to sustainable biomass production and consumption as regards charcoal is proposed. Based on the life-cycle concept, the optimum policy and institutional arrangements necessary for this strategy to achieve its goal are prescribed. The strategy can be potentially adopted in all sub-Saharan African countries with various socio-economic and environmental gains. At a time when the continent is searching for lasting solutions to energy insecurity as well as reducing poverty, the strategy proposed provides such a chance for the poor to achieve this goal in the short term, while preparing them to gain access to reliable and affordable commercial energy options.