Woodfuel policies and practices in selected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – a critical review

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Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is still very dependent on biomass fuels, which cover 60% of its total energy demand. Although woodfuel is an important energy source for millions of people in SSA, it is rarely given sufficient recognition in energy policies. For decades, government policies have assumed that economic growth and the result increases in household incomes would be better than produce a switch to more "modern' fuels. However, with persistently high levels of poverty and lack of access to affordable alternative energy sources, this transition is far from becoming a reality. This article conceptualizes woodfuel governance and analyses policies and institutional mechanisms relevant to the woodfuel subsector in selected countries: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Zambia. Based on a structured review of the literature, it assesses existing policies and legal mechanisms and their implementation, in the context of current practices along woodfuel value chains in these same countries. The main finding is that although recognition of woodfuel as a major energy source has increased in most countries, it is often associated with negative environmental outcomes and positive socio-economic outcomes. Of late, governments in several countries have developed policies and legislative frameworks to guide, manage, support and regulate woodfuel production and trade. Despite the legal provisions, the woodfuel industry operates largely in the informal sector and is unregulated and/or suppressed in some places. Governance of woodfuel value chains is faced with the major challenges of unclear institutional arrangements and enforcement mechanisms, limited capacities and corrupt behaviour, as well as inadequate investment and financing. Therefore, more integrated and responsive governance is required for sustainable woodfuel value chains to become a reality.

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