Rehabilitation of Degraded Forests for Sustainable WoodFuel Production and Climate Change Mitigation in the Forest-Savanna Transition Zone of Ghana

Darko-Obiri, B., Obeng, E.A., Oduro, K.A., Peprah, T., Damnyag, L., Derkyi,N.S.A., Opuni-Frimpong, E., Nutakor, E. and Adjei, R.

An important product derived from forests and woodland is wood fuel, which accounts for over 85% of the total energy consumption of West African countries and provides for the energy needs of most households. e Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) fourth assessment report on mitigation of climate change puts wood fuel as the only source of fuel for one third of the world’s population with this demand expected to double in the next 50 years. e IPCC report continues to estimate the world wide harvesting of wood as 60% industrial round wood and the remaining 40% as wood fuel, primarily charcoal and  firewood. Though wood fuel is the most common form of biomass, it is currently not easily accessible because of the fast rate of degradation of the natural forest. In Ghana, wood fuel consumption increased from about 18.4 million cubic meter in 1990 to about 33 million cubic meter in 2006, largely in response to population growth. The Energy Commission of Ghana estimates that wood fuel consumption in Ghana is twice as large as other energy sources, including electricity and petroleum and over 90% of rural households depend on wood fuel for cooking. Th e use of LPG in Ghana on the other hand accounts for only 4−6% of the residential sector’s energy needs and is only concentrated in the urban areas, mostly among the middle and higher income groups in society.

A recent study on forest dependency in the transition zone of Ghana also indicates that the most exploited product from natural forest is woody biomass mainly for charcoal production and firewood. Commercial charcoal production in the transition zone is a major livelihood activity that supplies charcoal to urban areas and for export to Europe. Th e over reliance on woody biomass as household and industrial energy, has contributed signi ficantly to the accelerating rate of natural forest depletion particularly in the forest-savanna transition zone. Th e government of Ghana has become increasingly concerned about the need to preserve the country’s wood and forest resources. It is anticipated that, better management of wood fuel supply particularly from the natural forest or through woodlots and plantation establishment would contribute extensively to natural forest conservation and carbon sequestration. Moreover, the current technologies used in charcoal production coupled with the limited range of suitable known species for wood fuel has compounded the problem of over harvesting of traditional species such as Anogeissus leiocarpus, Milicia excelsa, Nesogordonia papaverifera, Piptadeniastrum afr icanum and Khaya spp. that are also prime economic hardwood timber species. These species are preferred for charcoal because of their slow burning properties. However, there are other fast growing species with high calori c values that could easily be planted in short rotation systems to produce appreciable woody biomass for charcoal and fi rewood that have not been experimented.

Sponsorship of this project is by ITTO with the goal to contribute to the sustained socio-economic development of forest dependent communities and reduction in forest degradation in the forest savanna transition zone of Ghana through the promotion of smallholder and commercial tree plantations that could ensure sustainability of the resource base. Baseline surveys have been completed with the identifi cation of six communities where test plots for planting wood fuel would be sited. Some species both indigenous and exotic have also been selected for planting on the plots. e project team enjoyed good co-operation from the communities and FSD field staff who facilitated quantitative and qualitative information gathering.