Contribution of charcoal extraction to deforestation: experience from CHAPOSA Research Project.

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Sokoine University of Agriculture


The Charcoal Potential in Southern Africa (CHAPOSA) project which commenced in November, 1999 aimed at increasing the understanding of the effects of utilization of charcoal in three countries of Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania in southern Africa. The main ecological activities carried out in order to understand the impact of charcoal production on the ecology include: determination of species composition and diversity through forest inventory; determination of mean annual increment for Kitulangalo area from two time series measurements of 1996 and 1999; charcoal tree species and size gradient as influenced by proximity to access roads in Kitulangalo and Mbwewe areas through forest inventory; kiln efficiencies, species and tree sizes preference for charcoal making for Kitulangalo, Mbwewe and Bana areas; woodland cover change between 1991 and 1998; and 1991 and 2000 in the northern and southern catchment parts respectively using satellite imageries. Socio-economic data were collected from Kitulangalo, Mbwewe and Bana. The selection criteria for these sites were: presence of actual charcoal production activities; accessibility relative to other areas in the earmarked catchment area for the study; representative-ness of the study sites in making broad conclusions of the study and availability of ecological and socio- economic data. This study demonstrated that charcoal production and cultivation have an impact on large-scale deforestation that has occurred in the area between 1991 and 1998. Tree species suitable for charcoal production have been depleted at the roadside and the average distance to charcoal production sites has increased. Tree cover is worse today than ten years ago due to charcoal production. These observations have wide policy implications, given the increased demand for charcoal from the growing urban population with no reliable and affordable alternative sources of energy. Only 74% of the closed and 54% of the open woodlands, remain relatively unchanged; most of these were in forest reserves. However, these areas were also undergoing modification due to encroachment for charcoal, timber and other forest products. It is true that in the absence of any further disturbance after tree cutting, the areas may progressively revert to woodland. However, in the face of increased population and the demand for agricultural land, such areas may not be given enough room to regenerate. This calls for appropriate management strategies to ensure regeneration so that the remaining woodlands continue to supply charcoal to Dar es Salaam city and other urban areas. This study has shown that substantial regeneration has occurred in areas previously cut, if they have not been converted to farmland. This increases the potential of the regrowth woodland to supply charcoal over a much longer time period.



Charcoal Extraction, Deforestation, CHAPOSA Research Project., Southern Africa, Tanzania