On fuelwood consumption, population dynamics and deforestation in Africa

R. A. Cline-Cole, H. A.C. Main, Janet Elizabeth Nichol

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94 Citations (Scopus)


As the literature on fuelwood in Africa has increased in quality in recent times, it has become evident that generalizations about Africa's "fuelwood crisis" need to be treated with great caution. As a consequence, some commonly held (or "orthodox") beliefs may now need to be reexamined. This paper subjects three such beliefs-(1) the existence of a linear relationship between population growth, fuelwood consumption and rates of fuelwood-induced deforestation, (2) that fuelwood-induced deforestation approximates ripples spreading outward from urban consuming centers, and (3) that land conversion to agriculture always reduces fuelwood supplies-to close scrutiny. The second and third assumptions are analyzed in the light of recently collected field data in the Kano area of northern Nigeria; while the examination of the first is based on a reinterpretation of information from a wider range of invironments. The paper concludes that although available data are inadequate for definitive conclusions to be drawn on the first count, it seems likely that variations arising out of demographic differentials in urban populations, in particular changes in per capita fuelwood consumption resulting from changes in consuming unit size, distort direct links between population growth rates and rates of increase in fuel consumption. Further information on the demographic characteristics of African towns is needed for meaningful analyses of temporal changes in the affected variables to be undertaken. The second and third assumptions are found to be inapplicable in the Kano case. Howe1ver, this should be interpreted much less as justification for their outright rejection, than as a reminder of the great potential of time- and space-specific considerations for rendering "universal" rules locally inapplicable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-527
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics

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