Fuelwood use has grown from 50 million m3/year in 1990 to 70 million m3/year and accounts for a significantly higher share of forest product use than, for example, commercial logging; the latter amounted to only 11 million m3/year in 2010 and did not register any major changes in the last decades (FAO, 2015). This rapid rate of deforestation is a major concern with over half of the country’s primary forests cut down in the last 10 years, exacerbated by rapid population growth of 2.5 per cent. Over-extraction of trees for firewood without replanting new trees is threatening people’s ability to afford fuel wood.
Over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s estimated 180 million inhabitants still rely on fuelwood in meeting their energy needs for cooking and heating. The most prevalent way of cooking with biomass is the “three-stone or tripod stand cookstoves”. This type of biomass cooking is most inefficient and bears serious risks to human health and the environment.
The unsustainable and constant use of fuelwood by Nigerian households, institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals, IDPs camps) and cottage industries (e.g. fish smoking, cassava processing, and palm oil processing, bakeries) is one of the main causes of deforestation and land degradation in the country. More than half of the 9.6 million hectares of rain forest belt in the southern part of Nigeria has been used to meet the demand for fuelwood in rural and urban areas.
In Nigeria, where wood fuels are the main source of fuel, sustainable management and use of the forest are imperative. The Second National Communication (SNC, 2014) estimates that about 4.5 million hectares of fuelwood plantations have to be established in order to tackle the primary cause of deforestation and help address the looming shortfall of fuelwood resources.
It is against this background, under the framework of the Global Environment Facility (GEF’s) project that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Energy Commission of Nigeria in collaboration with the Kaduna State government organised a two-day ‘sustainable fuelwood management summit’ in Kaduna State, aimed at promoting sustainable community-based forest management with effective forest governance/law enforcement and incentives for commercial and sustainable woodfuel’s production and utilization for multiple environmental benefits.
Funded by Global Energy Facility (GEF), the $4.4 million SFM in Nigeria programme with a counterpart funding of $16 million from the three pilot states of Delta, Kaduna and Cross River, and the private sector equity share, is a part of the sustainable development initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In his opening address, the director-general of ECN, Prof. Eli Bala, noted that the project is also aimed at reducing GHG emissions from the use of fuelwood in the domestic, institutional and industrial sectors of the country through integrated and sustainable fuelwood production and utilization, and the promotion of sustainable biomass energy technologies in Nigeria using market based approaches.
Bala who was represented by the director, linkages and consultancy of the ECN, Mr Okon Ekpenyong, explained that the project is also targeted at promoting the re-plantation of millions of fast growing trees on degraded lands for future use.
He said: “Sustainable fuelwood management is a project that is aimed at addressing the problem we are all facing, deforestation, that is cutting of living trees for firewood and it has also led to grassland and desert. And this cutting of trees mainly for firewood is done by almost everybody. But unfortunately, this activity has led us to where we are now where we can hardly find any location called forest.
“Some children now especially in the north do not even know what a forest is. You see a grassland with few trees and that is equally affecting not only our lives but is affecting our agricultural activities because it has rendered our farmland that was once fertile due to the leaves that used to fall naturally on the ground, now those leaves are no more there because the trees are no more there and the lands are no longer fertile. It is on the bases of this that this fuelwood management project was approved to be implemented in three states, Kaduna, Delta and Cross Rivers respectively.”
He highlighted some of the objectives of the meeting to include creating awareness and sensitizing the states on the benefits of sustainable fuelwood management (SFM) project; generating strong buy-in and project ownership among states and community stakeholders; launching the 36,000 hectares, 14,000 hectares and 3,003 hectares of the protected forest/degraded lands dedicated to the SFM project; promoting the establishment of private and community-based woodlots for fuelwood supply and inaugurating the community-based SFM/SLM canagement Committees to ensure the sustainability of the project results beyond the GEF project.
Declaring the summit open, Kaduna state’s Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Mrs Amina Sijuade, applauded the initiative, saying it was in line with the state government’s sustainable development programmes.
Similarly, the permanent secretary of the state’s ministry of agriculture, Dr Abduladir Kassim, said the meeting provided an opportunity for the various stakeholders to deliberate on current vulnerabilities and ways of mitigating them to reduce the negative impact on the climate.
“The state ministry of environment, water resources, women affairs and related institutes are participating as stakeholders in this project. They will deliberate on current vulnerabilities and latest mitigation and adoption strategies to agriculture, forestry, water resources and livelihood in relation to climate change. It will also address the issue of modalities for educating participants on the effect of climate change in the rural poor prone people including women and children. It will also address the issue of positive promising strategies for survival to adverse climate change and the importance of modified clean energy stove in the environment,” he said.
Earlier, chairman of Gbagyi Women Wood Sellers Association, Kaduna State, Mary Samuel Sheyin had urged the government to take the sensitization to other remote rural areas even as she tasked the government to proffer other alternative sources of livelihood to reduce indiscriminate fuelwood harvesting.
She said: “They should also proffer alternatives to our members who depend solely on harvesting fuelwood to make a living because if they are not shown any alternative to fuelwood harvesting then they may be unable to leave the business. I advise the government to take this sensitization workshop to the villages, teach youths how to manufacture this stove. It will create more jobs and empower villagers as well as reduce negative impact on the climate.”
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