Survey: 90 per cent of Rwandan households depend on firewood

At least 90 per cent of all Rwandan households depend on woody biomass as primary source of energy, a new study has revealed.
The national demand for dry wood is estimated at 4.2 million tonnes per year. The New Times/File
The national demand for dry wood is estimated at 4.2 million tonnes per year. The New Times/File

At least 90 per cent of all Rwandan households depend on woody biomass as primary source of energy, a new study has revealed. 

The study, on the supply masterplan for wood and charcoal in Kigali was done by AGRICONSULT SPA, a consultancy firm, and commissioned by Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), in collaboration with the Belgian Cooperation (BTC).

 

According to the survey, in the short and medium term, wood will remain the only affordable fuel for the majority of the Rwandan population.

 

“Kigali plays a dominant role in the national wood energy context, with a demand for charcoal that covers some 60 per cent of the entire national requirement for such a commodity,” said Adrie Mukashema, the deputy director general of RNRA at a validation workshop of the report.

 

Using the new forest cover map produced by GIS Centre of the National University of Rwanda, C-GIS/NUR, and based on recent surveys of households and actors of the charcoal value chain (2012), the analysis presented in the current study shows that at present (reference year 2009), the supply of woody biomass for energy and construction in Rwanda amounts to about 3.3 million tonnes per year (dry wood equivalent).

The national demand is estimated at 4.2 million tonnes (dry wood equivalent), of which 1.1 million tonnes or 26 per cent in the City of Kigali. This means that a gap of approximately 0.9 million tonnes exists between supply and demand of woody biomass in Rwanda.

“Extrapolating the current trends, taking account of the population growth and supposing no change in wood resource consumption and forest management practices, the annual demand in woody biomass would reach 5.7 million tonnes by 2020, 27 per cent of which could be attributed to Kigali City,” explained Rudi Drigo, the team leader of AGRICONSULT SPA.

National deficit  

According to the report, this would lead to a national deficit of approximately 2.11 million tonnes (oven dry wood equivalent) per year.

“The resulting forest degradation would thus even be more severe than expected based on the data of 2009,” the report adds.

In order to bridge the gap between supply and demand for woody biomass, and achieve an equilibrium that allows for a sustainable management of the forest resources while at the same time meeting the needs of the Rwandan population, the Supply Master Plan for wood and charcoal of Kigali offers a package of solutions.  

On the one hand, it recommends addressing the supply side, by increasing the forest cover, mainly by afforestation on bare, not yet forested lands like in the Eastern Province.

It also calls for increase of the productivity of existing plantations, such that the same forested area produces more wood (move from 12-13 m³/ha per year to 17-18 m³/ha per year).

On the demand side, the report recommends reducing wood consumption by ensuring adequate use of improved stoves, adoption of modern charcoal making techniques that use less wood to produce the same amount of charcoal.

The report suggests that a combination of these solutions would allow to achieve an improved wood supply/demand balance, the supply amounting to approximately 4.6 million tonnes and the demand to 4.5 million tonnes by 2020, 19 per cent of which covered by Kigali. 

Forest use 

An approximate equilibrium could thus be reached.

According to Mukashema, this will allow forests to continue to fulfil their role in soil and environmental protection, while at the same time providing basic commodities, supporting the economic activity and contributing in a very significant way to the fight against poverty.

Rwanda largely depends on Woody biomass as primary source of energy.

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