Timber trees can be stimulated to produce wood fuel

Carrying firewood in Rwanda. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Carrying firewood in Rwanda. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Farmers can generate a future with sustainable wood fuel energy simply by stimulating timber trees to produce coppices, the World Congress on Agroforestry has been told.

Christian Dupraz of l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Paris, France, told the ongoing Congress in New Delhi India that stimulating coppices on timber trees by pruning them has more advantages than just producing fuelwood.

“Pollarded trees produce high quality energy, keep the environment evergreen and allow farmers to intercrop other within the woodlots because of the reduced shade,” he said in a session discussing production of biofuels using trees as a sustainable source of energy.

Pollarding is a process where upper branches of a tree are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. Some communities pollard trees so that they can produce more foliage to be used as fodder, while other do it as a way of producing fuelwood. In Kenya, miraa (khat) farmers pollard the khat trees so that they can produce more branches for more leaves.

Following experimentations done in Papua Guinea, Durpraz said the best woodlot species for coppicing among the samples were Eucalyptus grandis for the highlands and E.tereticornis for the lowlands.

During the same session, Philip Dobie of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said the world needs to take a long step back and start looking at the potential of using wood as a source of energy.

“The developing world highly depends on biomass for cooking, producing charcoal and for warmth. The truth is that demand for wood fuel is expected to increase in all parts of the world,” said Dobie, who is also affiliated with the University College Cork in Ireland.

“There is an urgent need to rehabilitate the reputation of trees for energy, include trees in energy policies, and a need to form a global platform for tree-based energy,” he told the forum.

As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draw closer, Dr Dobie said that there is need to begin influencing the post-2015 goals so that tree based energy is part of the agenda.

The scientists further noted that there was need to improve cooking facilities so as to save energy, as well need to exploit liquid biofuels.

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), more than two billion people depend on wood energy for cooking and heating, particularly in households in developing countries.

CIFOR estimates that in parts of Africa, wood fuel is often the only domestically available and affordable source of energy. Estimates suggest that biomass energy in sub-Saharan Africa will account for about three-quarters of total residential energy by 2030.

By Isaiah Esipisu

Related story:

Unpacking the evidence on firewood and charcoal in Africa

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!

Vigyan Bhavan & Kempinski Ambience

10 - 14 February 2014 Delhi, India
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