Tanzania’s government is pressing ahead with plans to ban the exportation of “dirty” charcoal from districts, aiming to totally phase out the use of charcoal by 2025.
The country is losing hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine forest due to charcoal loggers and traders cutting wood at an alarming rate, in order to feed a desire for cheap energy in cities like Dar es Salaam.
According to the ministry of energy and minerals, Dar es Salaam devours trees equivalent to 1000 football fields a day.
Now a recent government ban is aiming to wipe out charcoal use by 2025.
“The fee for one sack is so high now by the government. Even the forests where we got coal are fewer now, you have to use little farms,” Isihaka Salum, a charcoal seller said.
Tanzania is one of the highest consumers of charcoal in the world. Two million tonnes of charcoal are consumed in Tanzania each year, with 50% of that used in the capital Dar es Salaam.
The demand for charcoal continues to rise despite the fact its use has led to massive increases in deforestation.
The charcoal stove has been used for generations in Tanzania as a main source of cooking energy. However a rise in awareness on the negative impacts it has on the environment has triggered a drive to find alternatives.
Although the World Bank says the charcoal industry generates an estimated $650 million a year, the government is working to save the forests by encouraging alternative forms of energy.
Some manufacturers are using alternative means like sawdust and wood scraps to make a new kind of charcoal that is much more sustainable.
“We don’t cut trees it’s our policy, we only pick up all the waste. The product we are producing in its basic sense we are trying to replicate what a local Tanzanian would currently use. So with the charcoal, they take an amount put it in their cooker, they light it, cook their food and when it’s done remove the ash,” Benjamin Lan, a sustainable coal manufacturer said.
Products like these can be a more sustainable answer to traditional charcoal production.
But it might take time to change people’s perceptions.
Experts say shifting from charcoal to more sustainable means will take a consistent effort.
Government measures such as price reductions on gas, increased levies and penalties on charcoal trading are steps towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.