Dar es Salaam. Charcoal demand in Tanzania is likely to increase from 2.4 million to over 5 million tonnes annually by 2030 unless an affordable alternative cooking energy is found, experts have said.
To minimise environmental impacts of high demand they say the government must formalise charcoal business and put appropriate and workable policies for its sustainable use. Currently, charcoal production is undertaken illegally. On Tuesday, the government urged Tanzanians to reduce the use of charcoal as the primary cooking energy. Prime Minister Kasim Majaliwa told stakeholders during a workshop that population growth was a threat to forests and the environment in general as it increased demand for energy.
In his speech read on his behalf by the Tourism and Natural Resource Minister, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, Mr Majaliwa said at least 370,000 hectares of forest were cleared annually through illegal logging.
He said statistics showed one per cent increase in population led to 14 per cent increase in charcoal demand. As Tanzania is estimated to have at least 80 million people by 2030 from the current 51 million, demand for charcoal will massively increase.
“Therefore, as experts continue looking for alternative cooking energy sources, I would like to ask public institutions such as schools, the Prisons Department and the army to rethink their cooking systems so that they may stop using charcoal and start using alternative sources of energy, preferably gas,” said Mr Majaliwa.
He noted that every municipal council that produced charcoal should have a strategic plan to have tree farms to minimise the destruction of natural forests,” he added.
Speaking on the same issue, Prof Maghembe unveiled his ministry’s plan to increase charcoal fees as a way of discouraging its use, which stood at 90 per cent as the main source of cooking energy in urban areas. He said making charcoal more expensive would reduce its demand for both the domestic and foreign markets and will consequently minimise illegal logging.
“Unfortunately, charcoal is used more in urban areas such as Dar es Salaam, where other sources of energy are available. In fact, 60 per cent of all charcoal in the country is used in Dar es Salaam,” said Prof Maghembe. For his part, Centre for Sustainable Modern Energy Expertise (Tatedo) executive director Estomihi Sawe said there was disconnection between the way charcoal was stated in national policy statements and its economic importance.
“While the National Energy Policy, 2015 recognises that wood fuel is the most widely used form of energy, it fails to provide policy objectives or statements that offer guidance on its sustainability,” he said.