From tree to tea to CO2 in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a framework for analyzing the market chain of fuelwood around Kinshasa and Kisangani

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Problems surrounding the (over) exploitation of fuelwood have mainly been studied in the context of dry and semi arid forests in African Sahel countries. For the tropical and humid forests, such as the Central African region, the fuelwood sector has received less attention as there is a general assumption that fuelwood is abundant and merely a side-product of timber exploitation. Recently however, especially around the big cities in Central Africa, the supply of firewood and charcoal has become associated with environmental issues, such as deforestation, contributing to vicious circles of soil erosion and climate change (Brown, Cabarle et al., 1997; White, Cannell et al., 1999) . Associated issues include the heavy social costs, particularly respiratory health problems (Bruce, Perez-Padilla et al., 2002; Nash & Luttrell, 2006), that can be ill afforded by the chronically poor. Increasing fuelwood prices have been noted for urban users (Marien, Bertrand et al., 2008) , however the extent to which the trade contributes to livelihoods is unknown - whether as a main source of income or a supplemental, transitional, seasonal or occasional source such as from land clearance. This paper looks into the socio-economic issues associated with fuelwood production, trade and use in and around the cities of Kinshasa and Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An estimated 90 percent of the 10 million people living in Kinshasa depend on fuelwood for their household energy. Based on a national and regional literature review, an overview of the current developments in the sector and the main actors and factors involved is given. In the search for solutions for sustainable production, it is critical to have a clear picture of the entire market chain. This chain starts at the location of the tree where the wood is harvested, transformation, simply drying, chopping or making charcoal, to the consumption of the wood for energy by industry and households - for example cooking of water for tea or critically, food. The paper proposes a framework with a set of criteria for studying the economic, environmental and social-institutional impacts and aspects of market chain of fuelwood around Kinshasa and Kisangani in the DRC. This framework contributes to identifying current obstacles to a sustainable production and how the different actors perceive opportunities for sustainable solutions

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