Policy Brief: Developing sustainable tree-based bioenergy systems in sub-Saharan Africa

July 13, 2015

Participants at the workshop on sustainable tree-based bioenergy hosted by ICRAF. Photo/ ICFAFIntroduction

Worldwide over 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. In Africa, over 80% of the population depends on firewood and charcoal for cooking and less than 50% has access to electricity. The need to bring people out of energy poverty in Africa is well-recognized, including by the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) include a goal to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services for all”. Given the rising demand for energy due to population growth and increasing urbanization, there is an urgent need to invest in the sustainable development of treebased bioenergy systems in Africa that include solid and liquid fuels to address the needs of all sectors of society as traditional forms of energy generation for cooking and heating will grow in the coming decades. Over 80 experts from government, private sector, research and civil society, mainly from the African continent, met in May 2015 to discuss the opportunities and challenges of tree-based bioenergy. This policy brief outlines the participants’ collective recommendations around firewood, charcoal, liquid biofuels and biomass for heat, power and transport in sub-Saharan Africa.

Key messages

• Tree-based bioenergy has the potential to sustainably provide fuel for cooking and heating in households and to services requiring the provision of accessible, affordable and reliable energy sources.

• Improving the cooking of food using wood-based fuels in Africa requires an in-depth understanding of the full production-to-use cycle, and investments in improvement should be based on this understanding.

• Tree-based bioenergy systems, ranging from fuelwood and charcoal to liquid biofuels and power generation, offer great opportunities for sustainable green growth pathways combined with sustainable forest management and forest and landscape restoration in sub-Saharan Africa.

• What is needed to effectively promote the use of tree-based biofuels is a shift in perception to improve their negative image, a holistic approach that considers the full production to end-user cycle, collaboration of relevant stakeholders to overcome investment barriers and political coordination at subnational to national and regional levels.

Please click here to view the entire Policy Brief.