Through their “Reduce Charcoal Use” campaign, wePlanet Africa is urging African citizens to sign an online pledge, and also take practical steps to transition from wood fuel to other forms of energy including LPG, biogas and electricity.
The campaign which commits individuals to pledge to reduce charcoal use in their homes, also seeks to raise awareness, promote sustainable alternatives, and combat the environmental challenges and health risks associated with the production and use of charcoal.
Besides agriculture and human settlement - both, factors of a rapidly growing population - charcoal and other wood fuels lie at the heart of deforestation in Africa. According to the International Energy Agency’s regional energy outlook, more than 70 per cent of families in Africa have no access to electricity and singularly depend on charcoal and other forms of wood fuel for cooking.
“This contributes a great deal to deforestation, which poses severe threats to the environment, contributes to climate change and indoor air pollution,” says Patricia Nanteza, wePlanet Africa director.
Besides its devastating impact on forests and ecosystems, the production and use of charcoal also pose serious health risks, particularly in terms of indoor air pollution, a growing challenge for Africa. According to a Unicef report titled: Silent Suffocation in Africa, deaths from indoor air pollution in Africa have increased from 164,000 in 1990 to 258,000 in 2017 – a growth of nearly 60 per cent.
According to the UN’s Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO), deforestation in Africa is happening four times faster than the global rate, resulting in an average loss of an estimated 40,000 square kilometres per year. The report notes that since 1990, over 200,000 square kilometres of forest habitats in Africa have been lost. That is roughly four soccer pitches worth of forests per day for 20 years.
“Deforestation leads to loss of biodiversity, increases carbon emissions and disrupts ecosystems and water cycles - a fact that makes worse the disease burden among local communities due to climate change,” Nanteza said while unveiling the campaign.
The ‘Reduce Charcoal Use’ campaign five strategies include raising awareness about the harmful impacts of charcoal use, promoting sustainable alternatives such as clean cookstoves and renewable energy sources, strengthening legislative frameworks to deter illegal charcoal production, supporting local initiatives that create sustainable livelihoods, and fostering collaboration and partnerships among various stakeholders.
“By actively engaging communities, governments, and the private sector, wePlanet Africa seeks to shift the energy landscape in Africa towards cleaner and more sustainable sources,” Nanteza said.
Timothy Machi, wePlanet Africa Kenya coordinator, says the campaign aims to be a catalyst for change, driving widespread adoption of sustainable alternatives and prompting governments to enforce regulations that protect forests and promote responsible land management practices.