Fuelwood, charcoal, and other wood-derived fuels (collectively known as woodfuels) are the most important form of non-fossil fuel. The world production of fuelwood for 1999 was about 1,700 million m3, of which roughly 90% was produced and consumed in developing countries (FAO 2001a). Biomass energy, which includes woodfuels, agricultural residues, and animal wastes, provides nearly 30% of the total primary energy supply in developing countries. More than 2 billion people depend directly on biomass fuels as their primary or sole source of energy.

In developing countries, woodfuels account for more than half the biomass energy consumption (World Resources Institute 2000). At least half the total timber cut in these countries is used as fuel for cooking and heating. Scarcity is more acute in the Indian subcontinent and in semiarid regions of Africa below the Sahel. In Latin America, firewood scarcity is a problem in the Andean region, Central America, and the Caribbean (Fig. 1.3). Whether a regional or even global fuelwood crisis will develop depends on a variety of factors, such as the increase in the area of plantations for fuelwood, the use of more efficient burning stoves, and the availability of alternative sources of

Fig. 1.3. Fuelwood scarcity is a serious problem in several rural areas of Central America, especially in the drier forest regions. This oxen cart is attempting to cross a river on its way to the market in Jinotepe, near the Pacific coast of Nicaragua (Photo: F. Montagnini)

energy. However, there is little doubt that growing fuelwood scarcity will increase the economic burden on the poor in some regions.

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