Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mali's fuelwood dependence proving difficult to break

Soumaila T. Diarra in AlertNet: Mali’s citizens almost universally prefer firewood and charcoal over gas as a fuel. As a result of their dependence, the west African country is losing large swathes of its forests, putting at risk efforts to adapt to climate change.

“A bag of charcoal costs only about 3,500 West African CFA francs ($7) and it is sufficient for my energy needs for a month,” said Saran Doumbia, a 30-year-old housewife from Bamako, the capital. In her neighbourhood of Lafiabougou, fuel wood and charcoal are the main sources of energy, and substantially cheaper than natural gas.

About 13 million hectares of Mali’s land area were forested in 2005, but the country is losing 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of forest every year, mainly due to cutting for fuel wood, according to a 2010 environment ministry report. For at least the last decade, deforestation has been a principal source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, accounting for 35 percent of total emissions.

To deal with the problem, the government in 2011 launched a five-year programme to reduce dependence on fuel wood, in an attempt to protect the country against ongoing climate change. But the fragile political situation, as separatist rebels in northern Mali wage war an armed struggle against the government, has led international donors to suspend aid for such projects....

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