Environmental, social and economic co-benefits of charcoal substitution with bioethanol in Malawi and Mozambique

The use of charcoal as source of fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa has risen in the past decade.  But, despite its affordability, this fuel comes at high cost to the environment and communities. Not only does it pollute the air but it also leads to forest loss and degradation. This reduces the capacity of the forest ecosystem to provide essential ecosystem services that the poor depend on for their livelihoods. These include the provision of food, fodder and clean water as well as cultural services such as herbal medicines and sacred areas for traditional rituals. Whilst these impacts may be obvious to local communities, high levels of poverty mean that switching to higher cost cleaner forms of energy are unlikely.
 
This project explored the environmental, social and economic co-benefits of charcoal substitution with bioethanol, with an ecosystem service approach. It compared the stated and revealed preferences for bioethanol for household cooking in Malawi and Mozambique respectively. This involved user perceptions of the two energy sources, a detailed analysis of their costs and policy recommendations on how biofuels can contribute to poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa countries.
 
The project resulted in the following key findings:
  1. Bioethanol has a great potential as a cooking fuel, however, the economic impact in terms of fuel and stove costs have to be addressed to accelerate its wider adoption.
  2. Depending on the phase of adoption i.e. initial, usage and discontinued phase, households prefer a fuel due to certain characteristics that are valued differently.
  3. The provision of fuelwood is a highly valued ecosystem service in the areas studied and any substitution has to insure availability in addition to affordability.
  4. The potential for deforestation and forest degradation due to increasing fuelwood and charcoal demand was recognised by a significant segment of the population.
  5. Consistent government policies, availability of technical support and private sector actor confidence are key for any fuel substitution project to be successful.
 
 

About Ms Anne Nyambane

Anne has recently completed her MSc in Environmental Science at Kenyatta University. She has previous experience of biomass energy research projects from her involvement in the United Nations Development Programme and through her masters research project. Her project, hosted by the Stockholm Environment Institute, will assess how biofuel production for household use can improve human well-being and become an agent of poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Fellow: Ms Anne Nyambane
Host Institution: Stockholm Environment Institute
Start Date: 01/07/14
End Date: 30/06/16
Grant Ref No: FELL-2014-107
ESPA Fellow
Organisation: Stockholm Environment Institute
Country: Kenya
Lead Mentor
Organisation: Stockholm Environment Institute
Country: Sweden
Mentor
Organisation: United Nations Environment Programme
Country: Kenya
Mentor
Organisation: Stockholm Environment Institute
Country: Sweden
Mentor
Organisation: Council for Sci and Industrial Res
Country: South Africa