Fuel wood demand, major cause of desertification & erosion

Chima Ugwuanyi

6 November 2012, Sweetcrude, Enugu – The excessive sourcing of fuel (fire) wood for both domestic and commercial uses, has been identified as the major cause of desertification in the arid zone states and erosion in the southern parts of the country.

A team of energy experts and team of engineers, comprising A.I Musa, V.O Adogbeji, J.N Uti and O.I Abiodun, of the Mechanical Engineering Dept, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, made this known at a recent workshog in Enugu, Nigeria.

According to the Researchers, the rate of deforestation going on, in the rural areas now, due to demand for fire wood, was about 350,000 hectares per year, equivalent to 3.6 percent of the present forests and woodlands in the country, whereas the reforestation rate was only about 10 percent of the deforestation.

The Researchers cited the situation in the rural areas, where most end users depend on fuel wood, as reason for the frghtening scenario, adding that, over 60 per cent of Nigerians living in the rural areas, depend on this local source of energy (especially for cooking and bakeries) and cosume over 50 million metric tonnes of fuel (fire) annually-a rate, which they said, far exceeded the replenishment efforts of both individuals and governments, through various aforestation programmes.

They further stated that rural dwellers resort to fire wood as viable alternative energy source for their domestic activities, because, they had little access to the conventional energy, such as electricity and petroleum products, which have continued to be regarded as ‘essential comodity’, reserved for the urban dwellers(township people), raising the same question of: what have our governments been doing or what are they waiting for, in the appropriate ‘energy mix’ for sustainable development?

Research findings on the realities in the fuel wood demand and supply, the group said, have “indicated that a combination of increasing income and decreasing ease with which the local biomass fuel can be collected, is creating a market in these traditional fuels”, such that, in urban and even in semi-urban areas, the cost of using these fuels was approaching the cost of using modern cooking fuels-such as kerosene and gas, while the problem of diminishing forest reserves continued to escalate.

The group drew the attention of government at all levels, as well as all stakeiolders, to the MDG (millenium develogment goal) target of providing the enablement for the use of modern fuel for at least and 50 per cent of the present users of traditional biomass, by the development and adoption of the use of modern ones.

Musa and his colleagues also noted that this was most expedient in this age, to preserve our forests for other economic uses and above all, reduce the adverse health impacts of emissions from the local fuel woods, noting that Government is still the umpire Nigerians were waiting for, to give meaning to their lives.

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