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Energy for cooking in Tanzania

In this video, Dr Eleanor Jew shows that approximately 90% of Tanzania’s population relies on woodfuel for cooking.
In this section about energy and the environment, we are going to look at Tanzania, a developing country in East Africa. Tanzania is ranked 159th on the Human Development Index, with a population of approximately 56 million people. Near the equator, Tanzania contains the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, and is well known for National Parks containing Africa’s iconic animals such as elephants and rhinos. Tourism is one of the biggest contributors to GDP. For most of the population of Tanzania the main foods are rice, maize, and beans, in addition to other vegetables and typically small amounts of meat. All these products need significant cooking time to prepare them sufficiently.
It is also often necessary to boil water to make it safe to consume. Therefore access to energy to cook is very important to maintain food security. Approximately 90% of Tanzania’s population relies on woodfuel for this -firewood and charcoal. In rural areas people use a greater amount of firewood, whereas in urban areas they are more likely to use charcoal. Firewood is usually collected by women and girls, who often have to walk up to two hours to find firewood and carry it home. This reduces opportunities for them to participate in other activities to generate income or gain an education.
Usually the wood that is collected is dead wood and is found on the woodland floor, but if there is not enough wood it has to be cut down. Fires are usually lit inside the house, using three stones to support the pan. This leads to poor air quality within the home, with associated health impacts. Charcoal is produced by burning timber slowly under clods of earth, and the timber decomposes into lumps of charcoal, which is then transported to urban centres and sold. While some tree species are better for producing charcoal, any wood will do, and woodland areas tend to be clearfelled.
Charcoal production is often unregulated and informal, and this leads to widespread deforestation, especially in areas surrounding urban centres, and along transport routes. This deforestation has many consequences. This includes losing forests as a carbon sink and reductions in biodiversity, leaving behind poor soils which often cannot support agriculture. It also means that as suppliers need to travel further away from urban areas to fetch charcoal, the prices increase, and this can lead to poorer people being unable to access adequate amounts of fuel, therefore reducing their food security. Tanzania’s population is expected to triple by 2065, and with it there will be a corresponding demand for fuel. In the next step we will look at solutions to the current energy supply in Tanzania.

Approximately 90% of Tanzania’s population relies on solid fuels for cooking. This has an impact on both people and the environment.

How does this reliance affect people, particularly women and girls?

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