Climate concerns and charcoal production: How does charcoal production impact on climate and biodiversity concerns
Stories claiming that charcoal production is one of the underlying reasons for deforestation dominate the global media, but Christian Pilegaard Hansen, a researcher on the Danida funded Property, Access and Exclusion (AX) project, points out that the narrative is more complex than that.
The production of charcoal is an important socio-economic activity in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, wood fuels provide 64% of the primary energy consumption and around 450,000 people produce, transport and market charcoal as their primary occupation. This data suggests that charcoal will remain an important element in the energy mix in Ghana and other sub-Saharan African countries for many years to come, igniting the climate-related worry about charcoal production contributing to deforestation.
In the above short video clip from the documentary Formalization of charcoal production and trade and livelihood outcomes in Ghana made by the researchers of the research project Property, Access and Exclusion (AX) you will hear some of the concerns regarding the influence of the traditional ways of charcoal production on deforestation. But you will also hear that charcoal production does not lead to the kind of deforestation that is the complete clearing of vegetation.
According to Christian Pilegaard Hansen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen (IFRO), it is more appropriate to talk about the degradation of vegetation. That the charcoal production results in changes in species distribution and tree sizes.
Charcoal production will normally not reduce all the trees, it will be selective and only target a number of tree species that are good for charcoal production and leaving the other trees on the land. Charcoal production in this case would be integrated into agricultural production in a way that does not necessarily reduce the tree cover and it does not in itself result in deforestation, says Christian Pilegaard Hansen
The Danida funded research project Property, Access and Exclusion (AX) investigates precisely all the complexities of the environmental sustainability of charcoal production, as it is shaped by access relations.
In Ghana, access to charcoal, defined as the ability to benefit from it, is controlled and maintained by different actors and via social and structural means including rights (property), authority, coercion, stealth, or identity-based privilege. Understanding these processes and means is the objective of the research project, who aims at investigating how to reach equitable natural resource benefit sharing.
See the full documentary Formalization of charcoal production and trade and livelihood outcomes in Ghana. It is based on findings from the Danida funded research project Property, Access and Exclusion (AX) which examines how each set of actors in Ghana’s charcoal chain gains or maintains access to benefits, while also analysing the environmental sustainability of charcoal production as it is shaped by access relations.
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