Why domestic cooking energy policy vital for national development

20May 2016
Daniel Semberya
The Guardian
Why domestic cooking energy policy vital for national development

An estimated 90 percent of Tanzania’s energy needs are satisfied through the use of wood fuels. Charcoal is the single largest source of household energy in urban areas, as it is considered cheap and easy to transport, distribute, and store.

Board Chairman of Mpingo conservation and development initiative (MCDI), Dr Felician Kilahama delivers his speech Parliamentary Lands, Natural Resources and Environment, and the Parliamentary Energy and Minerals Committees on the importance of conserving the natural resources

The amount of charcoal consumed is expected to further rise in the coming years. Signs indicate consumption levels will be increasing in both absolute and relative terms in the near and medium term future due to three main factors: Rapid population growth; continued urbanization; and relative price increases of fossil fuel-based alternative energy sources.

These trends will apply particularly to the urban centre of Dar es Salaam. At present, the contribution of Tanzania’s charcoal sector to employment, rural livelihoods, and the wider economy is estimated to be in the region of US$650 million per year, providing income to several hundred thousand people in both urban and rural areas.

National and local governments are estimated to lose about US$100 million per year due to their failure to effectively regulate the charcoal sector.

The Tanzanian mainland is estimated to have a total of 48 million hectares (ha) of forest, which is 51 per cent of the total area, with woodlands occupying about 90 per cent of the total forest area and the remainder being shared by mangrove forests, montane forests, small patches of coastal forests, and plantations of softwood and hardwood.

Speaking to the Parliamentary Lands, Natural Resources and Environment Committee and the Parliamentary Energy and Minerals Committee over the weekend, Board Chairman of Mpingo conservation and development initiative (MCDI), Dr Felician Kilahama told parliamentarians forming the two committees that according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s report of 2015, the present value of net economic losses from deforestation to the Tanzanian economy over the next 20 years (2013–2033) stands at 18.5bn/- (US$ 171 million).

Or 5,588bn/-(US$3.5 billion), if this analysis only includes those provisioning forest ecosystem services that are captured by the system of national accounts and which can therefore be reflected in the gross domestic product (GDP).

Kilahama said that findings by the National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment of Tanzania (NAFORMA) show that the national annual deforestation rate of Tanzania Mainland is between 0.8 percent and 1.1 percent due to various contributing factors.

He said deforestation in Tanzania is driven by the expansion of agricultural activities, including through shifting cultivation, wildfires, lack of clearly defined boundaries, illegal logging, livestock grazing, unsustainable charcoal production for domestic and industrial use, lack of systematic management, and introduction of alien and invasive species, among others.

“These driving forces are depreciating the country’s natural capital or stock of forest ecosystem assets, because, as forests disappear, so may the benefits that these provide in terms of regulating water run-off, reducing soil erosion, capturing and sequestering carbon,” he explained.Deforestation rates range from 130,000 to 500,000 ha per annum, with different sources setting the rate at 142,720 ha in 2013.

This means that based on available data, it makes economic sense to reduce deforestation and implement policies and measures that tackle the direct and underlying drivers of deforestation.Dr Kilahama said that overseeing natural forests and their revenue collection was facing critical challenges.

He said that the Forest Act (Cap 323 Re: 2002) section 49 (4) clearly states that: No permit shall be granted under this part unless the activity in respect of which is applied for is: Consistent with any forest management plan applicable to the forest reserve where it is proposed to undertake the said activity. However, he said that permits to harvest trees in natural forests have been granted without proper plan and authority.

The objectives to collect revenues do not follow management plan to cited forests. And they don’t even follow the inventory shows the statistics of the available trees and how many trees are supposed to be harvested during that specific period.

Kilahama also pointed a finger to the National Treasury that has been mainly pressurising the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) to collect more revenues and levies from natural forests products without considering its environmental impacts to the nation.

He therefore told parliamentarians forming the Parliamentary Lands, Natural Resources and Environment Committee and the Parliamentary Energy and Minerals Committees to use their platform in parliament to woo the government to enact national domestic cooking energy policy.

Dr Kilahama is of the views that if that policy will provide a good guidance regarding the utilization of the available cooking energy sources like charcoal and firewood that are more utilized by the Tanzanians.

Once put in place the policy will enable regulatory framework, strategy, guidance and institutional set up to be established.
The policy will also create conditions for provision of secure, reliable, affordable, safe, efficient, cost effective and environment friendly energy.

“Recalling that 90 percent of energy demand and supply in Tanzania comes from woody biomass, we consider that the draft national energy policy is too narrowly focused on electrification and has not provided a clearer policy direction for biomass energy,” he noted.

Specifically, we consider that the current draft requires more attention to charcoal and fuel wood; and the ministry to provide clearer leadership for the millions of Tanzanians who depend on woody biomass to meet their energy needs. Some government experts’ projections indicate that biomass energy will continue to comprise the majority of the energy supply for at least the next 20 years.

Tanzania has an opportunity to become a world-leader on sustainable biomass energy. Biomass energy can be a renewable, sustainable and modern energy source.

If the national energy policy is to serve the majority of Tanzanian citizens it should provide clearers guidance on how biomass energy can be managed and developed to meet Tanzanian citizens needs.
The narrow focus on electrification leaves 90 percent of the energy sector with no clear policy direction. This is a missed opportunity.

Sustainable charcoal and fuel wood production could contribute to ensuring a sustainable energy supply for Tanzania as well as contributing to rural enterprises and the shift to a middle-income economy.

Loss of forest ecosystem services such as water regulation can have adverse impacts on the value added of other sectors such as agriculture, tourism and energy.

For example, more irregular water availability due to deforestation can impact agricultural output or lead to higher costs for hydroelectric utilities. These costs are not incurred by the forestry sector, but in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures of other sectors. Other services, such as biodiversity, are currently not included in national accounts.

The report provides an economic rationale for Tanzania to invest in more sustainable use and conservation of its forest assets by showing that the one-off financial benefits of deforestation, mainly from the sale of timber, are outstripped by the long-term losses.

The Tanzanian Forest Services (TFS) could use the findings of this report to advocate for additional domestic resources to tackle the driving forces behind deforestation, which in itself could deprive the TFS of 2bn/- in revenue between 2013 and 2033.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism could consider investing in the forestry sector as a potential way to alleviate poverty as findings show that investments in the forestry sector leads to comparatively higher income for rural populations than equal investments in the agricultural and wood paper printing sectors.

Similar national forest valuation studies have been completed for Kenya, Panama and Zambia, and UNEP is currently working with the Governments of Nepal, Ethiopia and Indonesia. A synthesis combining the findings of this work will be released later this year.

The charcoal trade is characterised by very weak governance, law enforcement, and other regulatory capacity. Low capacity to enforce regulations and effectively collect revenues is further undermined by corruption at checkpoints along charcoal transport routes.

The charcoal trade is dominated by a small number of powerful and politically connected entrepreneurs who are able to use their influence to further avoid and evade payments of fees and obtaining of licenses.

The tight control of the sector by a small number of people has two important implications. First, it means that efforts to reform and regularize the sector will be intensely resisted and will require significant political support. Second, it means that the bulk of charcoal profits are concentrated within a narrow band along the production-marketing chain.

Producers, small-scale transporters, and retailers (who far outnumber more powerful wholesalers and transporters) receive a very small share of the final market price.

This provides a strong disincentive toward sustainable forest management and afforestation and reforestation investments by charcoal producers.

Significant changes need to be introduced to regularise and legalise the currently informal sector. This would require a major shift both inside and outside government with regard to how charcoal is viewed and managed from a policy perspective.

Previously in another platform, Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) Professor of Forestry, Romanus Ishengoma in his 2015 report surprised many when he revealed that the informal wood fuel industry is worth USD1million.

Prof Ishengoma further puzzled many even-headed people by saying that wood fuel, which constitutes charcoal and firewood, accounted for 90 per cent of the domestic market energy needs.

He wondered why the government has left such a huge energy industry informal, while putting more efforts to regulate electricity and petroleum sectors which account for 2 and 8 per cent of energy needs in the country respectively.

Government's decision to leave the gigantic wood fuel industry free without proper regulation is not only denying Treasury revenue required for development, but also exposes forests to merciless charcoal makers who use trees as raw materials.