90% of Tanzania’s total energy consumption is derived from burning of biomass to cook and heat. Urban and peri-urban households depend almost solely on charcoal that is produced from natural forests that are being felled at a fast and increasing pace. A lot of concern exists about the impact of current production on forests, with reports showing that total loss is a feasible reality in the next 30 years. The absence of affordable alternative energy for cooking, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), however, makes it difficult to curb demand. Many ideas exist among stakeholders, on the ‘right’ approach and what needs to be done to ensure that Tanzanians have fuel to cook with that does not decimate natural forests. The debate is particularly relevant in charcoal producing areas where livelihoods are strongly dependent on this activity, but where the forest services has a mandate to protect forests. The Transforming Tanzania’s Charcoal Sector (TTCS) Project has, since 2012, been trying to convince the Forest and Energy departments that natural dry tropical forests can be sustainably managed for biomass, biodiversity and livelihoods. They are faced, however, with multiple ideologies of sustainability from multiple stakeholders who all have a stake in the persistence of Tanzania’s Miombo woodlands.
The stakeholders from the Ministry of Energy have a mandate to modernize Tanzania’s energy sector and to ensure that the nation transitions to ‘modern’ (clean and efficient) fuels. They influence how much funding is given to biomass energy development in the country, and request from donor community whether any should be allocated to developing of sustainable charcoal. Tanzania Forest Services has a mandate that is determined by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Their mandate is to protect and sustainably use Tanzania’s forest resources for sustainable development. They find themselves spending a lot of their budget on energy issues – curbing forest loss from charcoal, training producers in sustainable production, arresting illegal producers, promoting LU planning and developing community forests. They receive no funds from the Min. of Energy, are underfunded and understaffed. They have incredible power over producers and can be friends one day and enemies the next. TFCG & MJUMITA the two main NGOs promoting sustainable production are trying to balance power relations, aware that they need to full support of the Forestry Sector, but frustrated by how they can slow things down seemingly deliberately. There are also other functionaries that they need to work with and it is in their best interest to make sure they follow everything by the book, but also make demands on ensuring rights are realized for the communities. Charcoal producers have been increasingly empowered in the process, but are the most vulnerable to decisions that get made on their behalf. It is unclear how relations are between producers, and especially producers in and outside of the Project.
To know more:
Mwampamba TH. 2007.Urban charcoal consumption in Tanzania and its implications to present and future forest availability. Energy Policy 35 (8), 4221-4234