This sad state of affairs is doubtless dictated by the fact that the energy economy in the country is largely focused on collecting, distributing and consuming fuel-wood to satisfy household demand for cooking. As much as 90 per cent of the primary energy consumed in is biomass-based.
The use of natural gas and other fossil-based fuels for domestic purposes is still at a very low level even in urban areas, and it is virtually nonexistent in rural areas, though in the former it has been growing relatively fast in recent years.
Offshore natural gas discoveries in the country’s southern areas stand to help, and we hope the government will work all the more tirelessly and professionally in boosting the operations of natural gas processing plants in the country.
On the other hand, our commercial and industrial energy sectors are extremely small relative to the household sector but many are currently opting for hydrocarbon fuels, natural gas in particular, to run their plants.
Nonetheless, the gloomy fact remains – that virtually all of Tanzania’s wood-fuel comes from the country’s forested areas.
The importance of forests cannot be overemphasized, as all life on earth – and therefore our very survival – depends on them. They provide livelihoods for humans, they are important habitats for animals; they protect water sources, they prevent soil erosion, and they help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
All this notwithstanding, though, forests are disappearing at an unprecedented scale – and it can’t be said that it is by accident!
According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 report, the world had 4, 128 million hectares of forest in 1990 but by 2015 this area had decreased to 3,999 million hectares.
There are many reasons for this, among them a ballooning world population, vast expansion of agricultural land, reliance on wood-fuel for energy and other harmful land use practices.
For Tanzania, the 2015 National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment report estimated the annual rate of deforestation as 372,816 hectares, while by last year the estimates by Tanzania’s National Carbon Monitoring Centre showed an increase in the annual rate of deforestation as standing at 469,420 hectares.
This worrisome concern was aired by Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI) board chairman Dr Felician Kilahama in a report in March this year. He said that time was ripe to call upon all Tanzanians with ample land at their disposal to venture into tree planting and thus help the country pave the way for better management and greater utilisation of its forest resources.
The forestry expert said that in order to meet demand and ensure sustainable forest management, mainland Tanzania needs to plant between 185,000 and 200,000 hectares of trees each year.
Indeed, that should be the main focus and preoccupation of the government, environmental activists and other stakeholders. This is in the belief that if tree planting is accorded the seriousness it deserves, we shall have spared our forest cover the sure calamity it is staring in the face.