The crisis of woodfuel in the Sahel
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CTA. 1991. The crisis of woodfuel in the Sahel. Spore 32. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Le bois-energie au Sahel (Woodfuel in the Sahel) by Hamed Sow ACCT CTA Karthala 1990 in the collection 'Economy and Development' 176 pages ISBN 2 86537 278 2 22-24 boulevard Arago 75013 Paris, FRANCE
The deforestation of the Sahel, which brings with it the relentless advance of the desert, is one of the great global ecological problems of our time. It threatens the population of the region. Climatic change is not the sole cause; some responsibility must be borne by the inhabitants who have exhausted the natural resources they once had. Land has been overworked and vegetation destroyed. Traditional methods of agricultural production have proved inadequate to meet the demands of the expanding population and consequent urban growth. Wood resources have been plundered for town dwellers' fuel. A new book Environment and Development by Hamed Sow, published by Karthala with the help of CTA and Agence de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique (ACCT), explores the critical state of the woodfuel situation in the Sahel, and helps put in context the firewood crisis and the poverty of the region. Hamed Sow's book looks at the problems of firewood and charcoal, and suggests some possible solutions. In his preface he says: 'We have attempted to get away from the well-trodden paths of the experts, and to go in depth into certain questions which seem to us to have the most bearing on the region's future.' Socio-economic analysis At the beginning of the book the author asks what use it is to propose action for one sector if at the same time the whole social structure imposes restrictions? He therefore devotes the early part of the book to an analysis of the region's socio-economic structure and the direction it is taking. He then studies the conditions necessary for change in the Sahelian production systems, principally because of the important part such change would play in the region's future. 'Traditional production systems must increase output to meet today's double challenge: an increase in demand in limited space and with limited natural resources.' The author concludes that what is needed in the Sahel is a 'Green Revolution.' The first part of the book continues with an analysis of current energy consumption and the available resources, proving that 'there exists a disparity between the resources and the demand for conventional energies in Sahelian countries.' Finally, the author examines the effect of petroleum price rises on the economics of the region, and offers some conclusions about renewable energy which only recently was hailed as the most appropriate answer to the energy problems of the Sahel. Hamed Sow concludes that this needs new impetus. In the second part of the book, the author provides a detailed analysis of the fuelwood sector, and goes in depth into two areas. Firstly he describes the performance and motivation of the principal agents in this sector in a 'typical supply system.' This description is supported by examples from three representative Sahelian countries - Niger, Mali and Senegal. Secondly, the history and evolution of urban supply systems are outlined in so far as they justify certain proposals: mechanized felling, the development of the fuelwood economy, and the change to charcoal. A detailed analysis of the fuel wood sector In the final part Hamed Sow demonstrates the need to create a global strategy, basing his argument on the relative failure of forestry projects and of energy economies up to the present time. A global strategy would require a rationalization of demand and management of supply, as well as fiscal and land reforms. To make such a strategy work, various preconditions would have to be met: the use of appropriate plant and of alternative domestic fuels, the rationalization and management of natural forests, and the creation of a relevant and adapted price structure. The author includes some original ideas such as subsidies for the planting and maintenance of trees in over-exploited zones, or grants for the private sector to supply petrol or gas stoves. Le bois-energie au Sahel (Woodfuel in the Sahel) by Hamed Sow ACCT CTA Karthala 1990 in the collection 'Economy and Development' 176 pages ISBN 2 86537 278 2 22-24 boulevard Arago 75013 Paris, FRANCE
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