Need for charcoal hits Cameroon’s forests
October 10th 2012
Cameroonians are burning increasing amounts of charcoal for cooking and heating as the country’s electricity and gas supplies fail to keep pace with demand, raising concerns among environmentalists about growing deforestation and carbon emissions in the country. At local markets in Yaounde, the country’s capital, sales of charcoal are booming. The trade is especially attractive to young people who are jumping at a rare employment opportunity, and even older traders are now changing their wares.
The growing popularity of charcoal in Cameroon is an indication of a growing appetite for a power source more reliable than the country’s faltering gas and electricity supplies. Many businesses and households that formerly used gas or electricity have now switched over to using charcoal. Cameroon’s lone energy supply company, AES SONEL, and gas supply utility SCDP (Societe Camerounaise de Depot Patrolier) have not been able keep pace with the energy demands of a rapidly growing urban population.
The charcoal supply for Cameroon’s two biggest cities comes principally from the East region, which harbours rich forest reserves that are important for Cameroon in particular and the Congo Basin in general. Experts fear that if the energy crisis continues unabated it could contribute to growing deforestation that could worsen climate change and lead to more severe weather. ’Charcoal is obtained from the burning of trees, and if this trend continues you can imagine the quantity of trees the country is going to lose and what impact this will have for the future,’ said Ebia Ndongo, director of forestry in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. Trees help to store carbon dioxide, which is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, he said. According to Ndongo, Cameroon is already experiencing the impact of climate change with irregular rainfall leading to devastating floods and to advancing deserts in the North Region due to uncontrolled deforestation. ‘The felling and burning of trees for charcoal will obviously only worsen these climate change impacts,’ Ndongo warned.
Read the full article: Reuters AlertNet
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