Woodfuels consist of woody biomass, i.e. stems, branches, twigs, etc., and saw dust and other residues from logging and wood processing activities, as well as charcoal from these sources. The primary sources of woodfuels are both forest and non-forest land. Forest and other wooded land includes natural forests (including degraded forests), scrub lands, wood and timber plantations and woodlots. Non-forest land here includes agricultural land, agro-forestry systems, wasteland, line trees, home gardens, etc.
The share of non-forest areas in the total woodfuel supply is substantial. The ratio between woodfuels originating from forest and non-forest land is generally not known, but data from eight RWEDP member-countries indicate that about 1/3 of the woodfuels originates from forest land, and about 2/3 from non-forest land. Typically, non-commercial sources of woodfuels are located within a 20 km radius from the end-users, and commercial sources within a 100 km radius from the market.
Secondary sources of woodfuels are residues from logging and wood processing industries, but also recycled wood from construction activities, packing crates, pallets, driftwood, furniture, etc. In some areas, recycled wood supplies as much as 20% of total woodfuels.
Non-industrial tree plantations and private and community woodlots, including scattered or linear tree plantations on privately owned or community managed lands, have contributed significantly to the supply of wood in recent years. In many RWEDP member-countries massive tree planting programmes under social or community forestry development and non-industrial tree plantations of commercial importance have played a great role.
Most woodfuels are collected for free and are a by-product of forest and tree-based agricultural production systems and wood-processing industries. These types of woodfuels may be in the form of:
Nevertheless, a substantial amount is converted and traded through an extensive network of producers, middlemen and traders, so-called woodfuels flows. For many rural people this is the only or additional source of cash income.
Accessibility can significantly limit the availability of fuelwood in a certain area, even where large wood resources exist in the neighbourhood. For example, people living in areas close to protected natural forests (e.g. designated national parks or wildlife reserves, strict nature reserves or biodiversity conservation areas, and important catchment areas or watersheds), sometimes have no or limited right of access to these resources. Natural physical barriers (due to difficult terrain, steep topography, cliff and big river crossings, etc.) also limit the access to local resources.
In short, the availability and accessibility of wood resources for energy end-uses can be constrained by three types of factors:
RWEDP published an overview of current practices of woodfuel production in agro-forestry in Asia. Two sub-regional training courses on the integration of woodfuel production into agro-forestry and programs for agriculture and forestry were organised, one for Southeast Asia, and one for South Asia.
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© FAO-RWEDP, 1999