By Dr. Yannick Kuehl and Caity Peterson
With 70-90% of Africans relying on wood or wood-based charcoal to power their houses, and millions further relying on wood or wood based-charcoal for income and employment, developing a sustainable charcoal industry in Africa is a key consideration for the future.
Unfortunately, harvesting wood for charcoal is one of the leading causes of deforestation across Africa, which not only means the release of previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, but also means that wood and wood-based charcoal are becoming increasingly scarce and unaffordable for many.
However, a new program by INBAR is successfully developing bamboo as an alternative source for both wood and charcoal in Ethiopia and Ghana. Unlike other vegetation, bamboo will regrow if cut down, preventing the release of carbon into the atmosphere, and it does so quickly, helping to ensure people will have secure access to a sustainable important energy source.
Although it was only started in 2009, the program has already planted over 600 hectares of new bamboo cover, with the result that over 10,000 households have started using bamboo for fuel. With many other African countries starting to take interest, the program promises to mark a significant step in the development of a climate-friendly future for Africa.
Dr. Yannick Kuehl is a forest and climate change expert in the Environmental Sustainability Programme at the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). Caity Peterson is a visiting researcher and science writer based at the Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.