- Tanzania’s government has banned institutions from using charcoal and firewood for their energy needs.
- Tanzania has lost 16 percent of its forest cover to human-related activities.
- 85 percent of Tanzania’s energy needs are met with charcoal and firewood burning.
To curb the destruction of forests, Tanzania has set a deadline for its own institutions to stop using charcoal and firewood, an ambitious gesture for a country whose 85 percent of energy needs are met through the burning of charcoal and firewood.
As a result of this high dependence on forests for its energy needs, Tanzania’s forests are being depleted at a tremendous pace; 16 percent of forest cover has already been lost to date. At the current rate, Tanzania is losing over 640,429 hectares of forest per year.
The forest loss is mostly blamed on human activities related to unsustainable farming practices, development activities and to meet the huge energy gap.
Demand for charcoal and firewood is pushing the destruction of forests at an extremely high pace. Reforestation efforts are falling behind the growing demand for energy which is been met by charcoal and firewood.
To paint the grim picture, consider this recent World Bank study that showed Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s major commercial city, consumes the equivalent of 16 Olympic-sized swimming pools of charcoal every day.
Just how big are 16 Olympic swimming pools? Well, the World Bank study says, when put together end to end, they are long enough to connect Paris to London.
In fact, it is the World Bank study that showed 85 percent of Tanzania’s energy needs are met through the burning of charcoal and firewood.
“What’s more, the study found that the country’s charcoal market (circa 2012) exceeded the value of the country’s tea production,” reveals the study.
By comparison, Kenya’s reliance on charcoal and firewood is 70 percent and Uganda I 93 percent, some of the worst rates across East Africa.
This destruction of forests for charcoal and firewood is not isolated to individuals and the private sector, even government organizations and institutions supplement their energy needs with the use of charcoal and firewood.
In 2010, Tanzania launched what was called the Charcoal Project which revealed the magnitude of charcoal demand and the supportive ‘conflicting’ national policies.
In the study titled, “The ‘war on charcoal’ and its paradoxes for Tanzania’s conservation and development,” the author, Mathew Bukhi Mabele, highlights the overwhelming conflict between Tanzania’s national policy and social and financial reality.
“The Tanzanian government policy of severely restricting charcoal production and consumption on a national level drives illegal economic activity and curtails a vital source of revenue for community, regional, and the national government,” shows the report.
The reality on the ground is that charcoal is the main source of energy in Tanzania and as such, any attempts to ban its use results in the rise of a black market. Now, ten years later, the government has decided to set a good example by itself stopping the use of charcoal in its institutions.
The government of Tanzania has declared January 31, 2024, as the last date that its institutions will use charcoal or firewood. Will this ambitious declaration be met?
Well, before we go into the details, let us note the fact that the directive has also been extended to the private sector which has been given one year longer, to desist from the use of charcoal and firewood by January 31, 2025.
Use of clean cooking energy
However, as you may have noticed, the directive does not apply to individuals but institutions. Actually, the government of Tanzania has specified that it applies to large institutions that prepare food for more than 300 people, these should seize and desist by the specified date.
The decision was announced recently by Tanzania’s Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office (Environment and Union), Dr. Seleman Jafo, who said as of the given deadlines, the mentioned institutions should have switched to the use of safe and clean renewable cooking energy.
“With the authority bestowed to me under Article 13 of the Environmental Management Law Chapter 191, I issue this prohibition to the institutions with the numbers mentioned above to stop the use of charcoal and firewood by the mentioned time,” local media quoted the high-ranking government official.
The plan to stop the use of charcoal and firewood in government institutions goes hand in hand with the National Vision for the Use of Clean Cooking Energy. The switch to clean energy will also serve to stimulate the establishment of the sought-after industrial economy through the set up of the needed power plants.
To this end, an expert from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism’s Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Mr. James Nshare, called on both domestic and foreign companies to invest in renewable energy solutions as the long-term sustainable solution to preserve Tanzania’s forests.
According to the sector pundit, Tanzania has some six million hectares of forests set aside for Participatory Forest management (PFM) and another 4.3 million hectares for community-based forest management (CBFM).
Speaking at a stakeholder meeting under the theme “Conserving forests through sustainable, forest-based enterprise assistance in Tanzania (Coforest) initiative,” he admitted that Tanzania is losing its forests at an unprecedented rate.
“What we need is leveraging of investments and financing to promote CBFM in Tanzania,” he urged.
Notably, Tanzania has created what is known as the National Charcoal Strategies and Action Plan of 2021–203, which has a keen focus on the provision of clean cooking technologies. Because it is relatively affordable, Charcoal will contnue to be the largest source of household energy for both rural and urban areas in Tanzania.
The move by government to ban institiutions from the use of charcoal is expected to bring considerable reduction in the destruction of forest but no actual figures have been offered. It remains unknown as to how much of charcoal burning the government inisitutions are actually repsonsible for.
However, the move is a step in the right direction and will result in the reduction of CO2 emissions along with saving forests, a double edged sword in the fight against climate change.