March 21 is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Forests, and while we’re already attending Cool Insights for a Hot World Virtual Symposium and taking the ‘Think you know forests?’ quiz on Forests News to celebrate, we also have a round-up of some of our best content on this year’s theme: Forests and Energy.
Wood energy is critical for many communities in Sub-Saharan Africa as a way to cook food, clean water, and produce and sell charcoal as a source of income. On the other hand, the utilization of wood energy is responsible for 50% of forest degradation and 10-20% of forest destruction in the region.
For development practitioners working in Sub-Saharan Africa, the conflict between the need to utilize the resource and the need to protect the health of the ecosystems is obvious.
One question may weigh heavy on their minds, in particular: is there a way to transform the wood energy sector in a sustainable way to halt deforestation and land degradation? Can communities in Sub-Saharan Africa have their trees and burn them too?
The Brazilian agribusiness and forest sectors, aware that the world economy is finding new ways to incorporate carbon into the value equation, have formed an unprecedented alliance, the Brazil Climate, Forest, and Agriculture Coalition (Coalizão Brasil Clima, Florestas e Agricultura). Established in December 2014, the initiative consists of more than 120 sectoral partners—businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals—interested in promoting synergy among multiple agendas: forest protection and conservation, sustainable forest use, sustainable agriculture, and climate change mitigation and adaptation in Brazil and the rest of the world.
So we ask: What has led to this movement and the business interest in forests? The answer is probably a confluence of several factors. Brazil is a forest country. More than 50% of its territory is covered with native forests, including the Amazon region, the savannah (Cerrado), and the Atlantic Forest. It is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet and also one of the largest custodians of water capital. Moreover, it has an immense territory, fertile soil, good rain distribution, and ample sunlight.
True or false?:
- Extraction of wood energy is a threat to forested landscapes.
- Extraction of wood energy is an opportunity for forested landscapes.
That was the opening question at a discussion forum on sustainable wood energy at the Global Landscapes Forum held on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Paris. The mixed responses to the statements signified the potential of a sustainable wood energy sector in Africa.
Globally, 2.6 billion people depend on wood energy with a large proportion this number found in developing countries. At least 80% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa use wood energy for cooking and sterilizing water. Lack of alternative energy sources and growth in urban population is driving up the demand for wood energy. It is estimated that the use of charcoal in towns and cities areas rises by 3.3% every year.
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