Putting in suitable environmental actions key in curtailing cooking

28May 2022
The Guardian
Putting in suitable environmental actions key in curtailing cooking
  • energy hiccups in urban areas

TANZANIA attained 60 years of independence, which is a period equivalent to a person born at that time; now categorized as a senior citizen. In that context, such a person has remarkable experiences generated over the years.

Again, since independence to date tremendous changes have occurred in terms of natural forests mainly woodlands cover but also high tropical forests in mountainous areas like Kilimanjaro and Meru Mountains plus those in the Eastern Arc area including the Livingstone and Rungwe Mountains.

However, over the years, rates of natural forests/woodlands losses have been alarmingly highland one of the reasons being increased demands for charcoal and firewood particularly in urban areas. Conversely, forests are truly resources highly used by majority of Tanzanians for a living. I’m obliged to state that nearly all households, in Tanzania, use charcoal, firewood and other forest-based products. Experiences show that apart from firewood and charcoal, forest resources have been used for obtaining traditional medicines, food like mushrooms, edible insects, fruits, wild-meat; honey, water, traditional vegetables, but also tracking down other products like withies, poles, timber and raw materials for hand crafts, building/roofing materials and fodder for livestock and wildlife.

Majority, in urban areas, depend on charcoal for cooking while in villages firewood is mostly used. Although there’re other sources of energy but marginally utilized due to prohibitive costs, such as the use electricity, gas for cooking; the household must have relevant gadgets, which are expensive.

A quick survey recently conducted indicated that a medium rice cooker costs about 80,000/- to 100,000/-; similarly pressure cookers are expensive ranging from 275,000/- to 425,000/-.

It’s also known that a gadget with one electric burner and three gas cooking facilities its value ranges from800, 000/- to over 1m/- depending on the model and the producer company.

Examining these costs as well as the costs for LPG—55,000/- to 60,000/- 15 kg cylinder and high electricity tariffs; the only option for the majority of urban dwellers to depend on charcoal mostly obtained from the unmanaged villages’ woodlands.

Currently, the situation of domestic energy in urban areas is not attractive because of escalated costs, whether it is charcoal, gas or electricity the prices aren’t attractive to users.

Almost all households in different corners of urban areas are crying for escalated costs for cooking meals. In some areas, Ubungo Municipality, managed to talked to some charcoal vendors and buyers where one family of four members indicated that five years ago used to spend about 1,500/- to obtain charcoal needed for one day in combination with15kg cylinder (LPG) lasting for one month thus total costs amounting to about100, 000/-; whereas nowadays they spend 50,000/- more on same amount of charcoal and LPG.

On that count, the woman lamented saying: “Currently it is hard to part with life in urban areas due to ever-escalating costs of living.”

She unfortunately noted that charcoal does not last long because it is carbonized using juvenile trees—the situation which is a critical challenge to sustainable forest management options required to maintain sound environmental conditions for our well-being.

The rate of natural forest resources loss is rated between 370,000 to about 470,000 hectares annually and this has been caused by high demand for charcoal and firewood.

Reports have it that excessive forest resources loss observed in Katavi, Kigoma, Rukwa and Tabora regions. If charcoal and firewood are dependable sources for cooking in urban and rural areas respectively; why is the Ministry of Energy not making budgetary provisions, to support availability and affordability of domestic sources of energy as championed for gas and electricity?

For instance, provision of 100bn/- to leverage the costs of oil products demonstrated government commitments to ease the costs of living and contain inflation at manageable levels. Similar options should as well, be well-thought-out for domestic cooking energy.

It is useful for the Energy Ministry to promote and encourage gas and electricity for cooking instead of charcoal and firewood.

The use of gadgets like pressure/rice cookers in households can be increased if their costs and related gas/electricity tariffs can be regulated to affordable levels. The suppliers/sellers should be required to set prices at fair and reasonable levels while considering the customers/individual circumstances and their trends of past cooking energy uses and/or records of incomes. However, for this to yield felt and positive impacts, the government must intervene accordingly. The Ministry of Energy should make budget provisions to finance pertinent requirements for domestic energy for cooking. The idea is to make a domestic energy shift from high dependence on charcoal and firewood; while progressively encouraging use of gas and electricity for cooking. By doing so, Tanzania will sustain natural forest resources needed for sound environmental conditions and land protection. As a result, sustainable ecological services will be endured in terms of adequate and predictable of rainfall; food, reduced soil erosion and lessened carbon footprints (CO2) to keep global warming below 2o Celsius. Nothing is impossible, the government in collaboration with other stakeholders including the private sector; should take thoughtful actions now than later. The Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS) be further empowered to manage natural forests, while efforts to plant more trees are doubled or tripled.

Charcoal and firewood should come from well-managed natural woodlands and forests but not the opposite. It is anticipated that taking appropriate actions will lead to well secured environmental conditions enabling natural forests/woodlands to contribute to sustainable economic development and secured wildlife habitats with adequate water, fodder and grasses’ resources—keeping National Parks and Game Reserves including Nature Forest Reserves, Forest Reserves and Wetlands attractive. Thus, the fruits of Royal Tour and its campaigns will highly benefit the nation through increased tourists and related tourist products and services.

Dr Felician Kilahama is the former director of the Forestry and Beekeeping division in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

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