Burning the woods and flooding the slums

Burning the woods and flooding the slums: examining the socio-economic and environmental burden of wood charcoal in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Wood charcoal is the main source of energy for cooking in urban Sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely known that charcoal production causes numerous environmental impacts, such as deforestation and environmental degradation. Interventions aimed at environmental improvements are common in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, there is limited focus on the trade-offs between the environmental and socio-economic implications across the entire wood charcoal supply chain. In this thesis, the socio-economic and environmental implications for people within the wood charcoal supply chain is examined through a case study of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Furthermore, the study assesses whether or not the identified socio-economic and environmental implications contribute to a sustainable urban energy system for cooking or not. The study utilizes systems-thinking and solution-orientation to understand the wood charcoal supply chain and aid interventions.

The main finding is that the wood charcoal supply chain has a range of environmental impacts that further exacerbate socio-economic challenges faced by people within the chain. The results show that charcoal production contribute to increased deforestation and rainfall. The consequence is found to be that wood charcoal producers and sellers struggle to secure wood charcoal availability and quality which result in increased prices for the end users. The results also indicate that producers and sellers can possibly turn to alternative livelihood activities, whilst users have no feasible alternative energy sources for cooking. Ultimately, the findings show that inter- and intragenerational equity and future sustainability is at stake because of current injustices and unsustainability of the wood charcoal supply chain. This study argues for a more just system that is robust, diversified, and equitable. To achieve such changes, stakeholder participation in decision-making needs to be established as well as alternative energy sources for cooking that meet the needs of current generations, without placing undue harm to the environment and to future generations.