Excessive use of fuelwood and cutting down of live trees a growing concern in Botswana

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Shea Trees

This winter season has seen the Botswana government decry the excessive use of fuelwood and felling of live trees by some members of the public.

The government’s concern arises from the fact that the indiscriminate felling of live trees is detrimental to the environment and is a direct cause of land degradation.

In an effort to redress what the government has termed ‘a growing concern,’ Botswana’s Department of Forestry and Range Resources reminded the public to comply with the Agricultural Resources Conservation Regulations on the utilisation of veldt products.

This is because the use of firewood in the country is legally regulated. Permits are required in order to harvest it, while the permit issuance is dependent on the availability of fuelwood. Cutting down of live trees for the purposes of fuel wood, however, is prohibited.

Since biomass is the most common source of energy, especially in rural households where people also need it to stay warm, Obuile Morewane, CEO of Bio-Watt Botswana, a local company specialized in producing organic charcoal to discourage deforestation, said the demand for firewood since the outbreak of COVID-19 has encouraged the rise of businesses selling firewood.

The rising demand of firewood is also due to the high cost of electricity, as tariffs have been gradually increasing despite the financial burdens on society because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morewane said.

“To meet the demand, these guys end up cutting live trees, and leave them to dry. But we all know the dangers of this. The solution is education, and pointing citizens toward the use of renewable energy alternatives,” he said, add that the government should be firm in its implementation of the law in order to ensure sustainable environmental conservation.

What also worries leading environmental scientists like Pauline Dube, an associate professor at the University of Botswana, is that a large population of rural dwellers tend to use firewood for cooking in an enclosed space, thereby exposing themselves to dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.

The lack of proper cooking facilities has posed a health hazard, she said, stressing the need for cleaner cooking solutions.

“If we opt for the electric stove, we should question how we are going to produce that electricity. We are better off using clean energy rather than coal, as using coal will be just another way of killing ourselves again,” said Dube, who urged the government to consider the hidden environmental costs of using coal, the costs on the health of the population and on sectors such as tourism, and act fast and wisely. Enditem

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