Towards reforming Africa’s wood fuel for enhancing food productivity and environmental protection
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This paper explains the growing relationship between the crises in Africa’s most widely used energy of wood fuel and food production in the continent. It argues that the optimal productivity of agricultural land has been on a steady decline due to the massive disappearance of soil nutrients occasioned by systematic tree cutting, constituting one of the central factors responsible for lowering food production in Africa. Wood fuel is the biggest source of energy for the overwhelming African households, in which over ninety percent of the continent’s populations depend on for cooking, heating and other domestic energy generating activities. It is, at the same time, the fastest diminishing energy due partly to its wasteful mode of utilization and partly to the growing gap between its consumption and production. The food crisis, manifests itself at the growing Africa’s food deficits and imports, shortages and soaring prices, and the increasing number of Africa’s population afflicted by hunger, malnutrition and mortalities. Using gap theory, data accumulated from wood fuel consumption and food production for the past forty years have been correlated in order to establish the growing pattern of their linkages and intersection. The result of the study shows that wood fuel and food crises are not only interconnected, but they also reinforce each other in their growing manifestation and gravity. The current Africa’s food deficit could be attributed to up to 70% to the negative effects of wood fuel utilization and depletion. In fact, by the current rates of wood fuel consumption, population explosion and food decline, food deficit in Africa is expected to double in the next decade. This ugly situation can be prevented on the short term by reducing the wood fuel wastage and utilization of non tree or dead biomass, through an effective but multiple purpose stoves, which could save about 90 percent of the inefficiently utilized trees and increase food production by the same percentage in the continent. The long term solution to wood fuel and food crises could be sought in what I propose as a complete shift from wood fuel to much more easily renewable and sustainable solar and wind energy, in order to provide sufficient food for all and protect the biodiversity of the African environment.