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International Journal of Engineering Sciences, 2(4) April 2013, Pages: 110-114

TI Journals
ISSN
2306-6474

International Journal of Engineering Sciences


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Wood Fuel Usage and the Challenges on the Environment


David. J Idiata 1, Mitchell Ebiogbe 2, Henry Oriakhi 3, Osazuwa. L Iyalekhue 4
1,4

Department of Civil Engineering, Edo State Institute of Technology & Management, Usen, P.M.B 1104, Benin City, Nigeria
Department of Survey & Geo-informatics, Edo State Institute of Technology & Management, Usen, P.M.B 1104, Benin City, Nigeria

2,3

AR TIC LE INF O

AB STR AC T

Keywords:

The use of wood (fuelwood, charcoal and black liquor) as fuel source for heating and cooking is as
old as civilization itself. In spite of the fact that the oil producing nations of Africa exports 80% of
its production, 16% of global total, yet consumes only 3% of the global total. Almost all African
countries still rely on wood to meet basic energy need, wood fuel accounts for 90-98% of
residential energy consumption in most sub-Saharan Africa. From studies Nigeria lead the pack of
ten countries surveyed with 19.1%, followed by Ethiopia with 9.1% of total African consumption.
The use of wood fuel does come at a cost; the effect of its use on the environment is a major
concern to governments and the citizens. This paper is to x-ray the possible environmental
problems with the continuous use of wood as fuel and some these environmental challenges
includes: release of GHG gases, particulates which are parts of air pollution, deforestation,
desertification, land degradation an upshot of desertification and deforestation and lost of
biodiversity which is the bank for pharmaceutical drugs. The way out is provision of cheap and
affordable fuel, afforestation and environmental consciousness through environmental education.

Wood fuel
Energy
Sub-Saharan Africa
Environmental Challenges
GHG

2013 Int. j. eng. sci. All rights reserved for TI Journals.

1.

Introduction

The use of wood as a fuel source for heating is as old as civilization itself. Historically, it was limited in use only by the distribution of
technology required to make a spark. Wood fuel is wood used as fuel. The burning of wood is currently the largest use of energy derived
from a solid fuel biomass. Wood fuel can be used for cooking and heating, and occasionally for fueling steam engines and steam turbines
that generate electricity. Wood fuel may be available as firewood, charcoal, chips, sheets, pellets and sawdust. The particular form used
depends upon factors such as source, quantity, quality and application. Sawmill waste and construction industry by-products also include
various forms of lumber tailings [1].
Ene [2], defines environment as comprising complex physical chemical and biological factors and as total surroundings, circumstances,
influences, within which one individual exists. Man influences the environment and the environment influences man [3].

2.

Energy situation

Some 2 billion people rely on wood, dung and other biomass fuels for cooking and heating, and use them in polluting and inefficient ways
[4]. Almost all African countries still rely on wood to meet basic energy needs. At aggregated level, wood fuels share an estimated 60% to
86% of African primary energy consumption, except in north African countries and South Africa, where the wood fuel contribution is less
significant. Moreover, wood fuel use accounts for 90 to 98 % of residential energy consumption in most of sub-Saharan Africa.
Figure 1. Domestic Energy Demand in 13 SSA countries in 1994

7%

GAS

9%

ELECT RICITY

8%
4%
63%
9%

KEROSENE
RESIDUES
CHARCOAL
WOOD

Source: ADB, 1996 [5]

* Corresponding author.
Email address: djgrandmaster4christ@yahoo.com

Wood Fuel Usage and the challenges on the Environment

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Internat ional Jour nal of Engineeri ng Science s, 2(4) Apri l 2013

Africa exports about 80% of its oil production, this being about 16% of the global total, yet total consumption represents only 3% of the
global total. At the same time, 40 of the countries are net importer of oil and petroleum products. Other than in Nigeria and Angola, which
have by far the largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa (89%).
Table 1. Contribution of Various Types of Woodfuels to African Woodfuel Consumption (million m3)

Year

1980

1985

1990

1994

Fuelwood

435.5

458.1

480.4

507.0

Charcoal

76.5

89.0

108.5

113.0

Black Liquor

1.6

1.5

3.0

2.5

513.6

548.6

591.9

622.5

Total

African countries rely on wood to meet energy requirements far more heavily than most other developing countries.

3.

African situation and contribution overall

In the world's poorest countries, biomass fuels - firewood, agricultural residues, animal wastes, and charcoal - accounts for up to 90 percent
of the energy supply, mostly in traditional or noncommercial forms. [6]. In developing countries, the lack of clean and affordable energy is
a significant barrier to development and a major contributor to a host of environmental and human health problems.
According to best estimates, African wood fuel consumption is characterized by the substantial contribution of the West Moist region,
which accounted for 172 million m3 in 1994, representing 28% of total African consumption. This region's importance is due to Nigeria,
which contributed about 20% of total African consumption (see table 2). On the other hand, the Tropical Southern and East Sahelian
regions are respectively the second and the third contributors to African wood fuel consumption, each accounting for 19% of total
consumption. The Central African region contributes 16% of total wood fuel consumption.
Wood fuel consumption is highly concentrated in Africa. In fact, in 1994, the 10 major countries contributed around two thirds of total
African consumption, while the 45 other countries contributed one third.

Table 2. Contribution of the Top 10 countries to African Wood fuel Consumption

4.

Rank

Country

1000 m3

(%) of total African Consumption

Nigeria

118.8

19.1%

Ethiopia

56.6

9.1%

South Africa

42.5

6.8%

Tanzania

42.2

6.6%

Congo Democrat. Rep.

38.0

6.1%

Uganda

29.8

4.8%

Kenya

28.7

4.6%

Sudan

26.3

4.2%

Mozambique

21.7

3.5%

10

Cote d'Ivoire

19.0

3.0%

Total

422.6

67.8%

Impact of wood fuel usage and its challenges

Nine out of Ten Africans have no access to electricity and rely on traditional sources of biomass for their energy. These sources themselves
are under threat from overuse, creating additional environmental challenges.
Environmental Impact
Environmental aspects of wood energy use are diverse. They range from local land use to global climate change and from applications in
smoky kitchens to electricity generation in large-scale power stations. Consequently environmental impacts of wood energy use and
production can be both positive and negative, and an assessment of these impacts should always be part of wood energy policy making
[7,8].
Greenhouse gases: Wood burning does not release more carbon dioxide than its biodegradation (decomposition). Wood burning can
therefore be called "carbon neutral". Of course, harvesting and transport operations can produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas
pollution.

David. J Idiata et al.

112

25.00%
20.00%
15.00%
10.00%
5.00%

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Internat ional Journal of Engineeri ng Scie nc es, 2(4) Apri l 2013

Top ten African contries


Figure 2. Graphical presentation of the Top ten Consumer of wood fuel

Within global wood fuel emissions, fuelwood use is once again the major contributor to the GHG balance. However, historical trends show
an increasing share of charcoal use in total GHG, at least in the 1980s and 90s and the price of energy is soaring continuously as such it is
beyond the poor.
The recent removal of oil subsidy in Nigeria and Ghana increase in petroleum prices will have a direct impact on the use of wood as fuel
for cooking etc.
Table 3. Respective Contributions of Fuelwood and Charcoal to Aggregate GHG Emissions in Africa (million TE-CO2)

Year

1980

1985

1990

1995

Fuelwood

512.4

538.7

566.7

602.1

Charcoal

85.0

98.8

120.2

126.9

Total Africa

597.4

637.5

686.9

729.0

Air Pollution:About half of the worlds households use solid fuels (biomass and coal) for cooking and heating in simple devices that
produce large amounts of air pollutionpollution that is probably responsible for 45 percent of the global burden of disease. [6].
Indoor exposure to suspended particulate matter increases the risk of acute respiratory infections, one of the leading causes of infant and
child mortality in developing countries. In Asia, such exposure accounts for between half and one million excess deaths every year. In subSaharan Africa the estimate is 300,000-500,000 excess deaths. [9].
Indoor Air Pollution causes an estimated two million excess death per year, or 5% of the global burden of disease[10].
As a cause of death and illness, indoor air pollution is a larger problem than tuberculosis, AIDS, or malaria [10].
Air pollution also causes an estimated four to five million new cases of chronic bronchitis. The economic burden of this pollution is
estimated at 0.5 to 2.5 % of the world GNP, some $ 150-750 billion per year [11].
Deforestation: Deforestation represents now one of the most pressing environmental problems faced by almost all sub-Saharan African
nations, and one of the primary causes of deforestation is wood utilization for fuel. Many sub-Saharan countries have had over three
quarters of their forest cover depleted, and it is estimated that if current trends continue, many areas, especially that of the Sudano-Sahelian
belt, will experience a severe shortage of fuelwood by 2025. Land clearing by farmers may contribute as much as fuelwood gathering in the
depletion of tree stocks. According to Porter and Brown, conversion of forests for subsistence and commercial agriculture may account for
as much as 60 percent of world-wide deforestation.1 An estimated 20 to 25 percent of annual deforestation is thought to be due to
commercial logging. The remaining 15 to 20 percent is attributed to other activities such as cattle ranching, cash crop plantations, and the
construction of dams, roads, and mines.
Desertification: The harvesting of wood for use as fuel also has contributed to the problem of desertification. Desertification is the term
used to describe the loss of soil fertility and structure to the extent that its ability to support plant life is severely compromised. In subSaharan Africa, where desertification has its greatest impact, forest areas are often cleared in order to harvest fuelwood and for agricultural
use. Traditional farming practices, which tend to be inefficient and land-intensive, significantly degrade scarce arable land -- the single
most important natural resource in sub-Saharan Africa.
Desertification can lead to downstream flooding, reduced water quality and sedimentation in rivers and lakes. It also can lead to dust
storms, air pollution and health problems such as respiratory illnesses and allergies.
Land Degradation: Exploitation of biomass for bioenergy purposes is considered as a major contributing factor to land/soil degradation in
sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 1992). Annual soil loss due to erosion is reported at 290 metric tonne/hectare for steep slopes in Ethiopia,

Wood Fuel Usage and the challenges on the Environment

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Internat ional Jour nal of Engineeri ng Science s, 2(4) Apri l 2013

and between 10-20 metric tonne/hectare in West African gentle slopes (World Bank, 1989). These figures are very much higher than the
acceptable rates of soil erosion in a relatively stable ecosystem. They are frequently put down to growing household energy needs.
Biodiversity Threat: This has led to the loss of valuable plants, which are important in pharmacology. The table below gives us an idea of
the impact of use of wood fuel which directly affects biodiversity [12].
Table 3: Some drugs derived from plants and fungi
Drug
Bromelain
Caffeine

Use
Control tissue inflammation
Stimulant, central nervous system
Local anesthetics
Analgerics

Cocaine
Codeine, Morphine

Cardiac stimulant

Plant source
Pineapple (Annas comosus)
Tea (Camelia sinensis)
Coca (Erythroxylon coca)
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
Foxgloves (Digitalis spp)

Digitoxin
Female contraceptive
Parkinsons disease suppressant
Male contraceptive
Anti cancer (topical)
General antibiotic

Diosgenin
L-Dopa
Gossypol
Monocrotaline
Penicillin
Quinine
Reserpine
Seopolamine
D-tubocurarine

Anti malarial
Reduces high blood pressure
Sedative
Active component of curare: surgical
muscle relaxant
Anti cancer esp. childhood leukemia

Vinblastine, Vincristine
A.
Drug
Bromelain
Caffeine

B.
Use
Control tissue inflammation
Stimulant, central nervous system
Local anesthetics
Analgerics

Cocaine
Codeine, Morphine

Cardiac stimulant

Wild yam (Dioscorea spp)


Velvet bean (Mucuna deeringiana)
Cotton (Gossypium spp)
Crotalaria sessiliflora
Penicillium fungi (esp. Penicillium
chrysogenum)
Yellow cinchona (Cinchona legerriana)
Indian snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina)
Tornapple (Datura metel)
Chondrodendon and Strychnos species
Madagascar periwinkle (Catharan thus
roseus)

1) Plant source
Pineapple (Annas comosus)
Tea (Camelia sinensis)
Coca (Erythroxylon coca)
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
Foxgloves (Digitalis spp)

Digitoxin
Female contraceptive
Parkinsons disease suppressant
Male contraceptive
Anti cancer (topical)
General antibiotic

Diosgenin
L-Dopa
Gossypol
Monocrotaline
Penicillin
Quinine
Reserpine
Seopolamine
D-tubocurarine

Anti malarial
Reduces high blood pressure
Sedative
Active component of curare: surgical
muscle relaxant
Anti cancer esp. childhood leukemia

Wild yam (Dioscorea spp)


Velvet bean (Mucuna deeringiana)
Cotton (Gossypium spp)
Crotalaria sessiliflora
Penicillium fungi (esp. Penicillium
chrysogenum)
Yellow cinchona (Cinchona legerriana)
Indian snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina)
Tornapple (Datura metel)
Chondrodendon and Strychnos species
Madagascar periwinkle (Catharan thus
roseus)

Vinblastine, Vincristine
Blackmore & Reddish, [13]

5.

Conclusion / Recommendation(s)

Deforestation can be seen as a local issue with global consequences. Therefore, actors such as NGOs, donor governments, and the countries
of Sub-Saharan Africa must work together to combat the problem.

David. J Idiata et al.

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Internat ional Journal of Engineeri ng Scie nc es, 2(4) Apri l 2013

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[13]

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