South Sudan, 27 July 2015 – In South Sudan, the current demand for cooking fuels, and access to these resources, has huge implications for the environment and people’s well-being. The environmental risks associated with fuel wood use in the country are significant, given the damaging, long-term effects of over-exploiting natural forests. With these risks in mind, FAO and the Government of South Sudan launched a one-day consultative workshop on charcoal production and trade to raise awareness on the impact of charcoal production.
The current rate of charcoal production – its flow from production sites into Juba city and the mushrooming charcoal business– is negatively impacting forests in Central Equatoria and other parts of the country. Studies show that demand for charcoal rises with urbanization and population growth, as does the pressure on forests and woodlands, most of which are poorly managed and prone to degradation.
During his opening remarks at the workshop, Honourable Beda Machar Deng, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development said, “South Sudan’s forest cover is declining in front of our eyes. You don’t need to be a forester or someone working in this field to know that this is not sustainable.”
In addition to the dangers of charcoal production for the environment, collecting fuel wood for cooking also poses a considerable threat to the people in South Sudan. “Women and children, who are commonly the collectors of fuel wood, have been exposed to life threatening risks in insecure environments. In an effort to reduce these risks for vulnerable populations, FAO is advancing cooking technologies for women and has distributed over 20 000 fuel-efficient stoves to communities,” said Serge Tissot, FAO Representative, a.i. South Sudan.
Over the past year, fuel-efficient stoves have been provided to women in areas with high numbers of displaced people, such as Bentiu, Malakal and Nimule. FAO’s fuel-efficient stoves are reducing the risks facing women and children, while decreasing the amount of wood extracted from the surrounding environment. During the stove distributions, women were trained in how to use the stoves, as well as on sustainable cooking practices. More fuel-efficient stoves are being provided throughout 2015, complemented with further training for women on good cooking practices.
It is crucial that the importance of fuel for domestic use be recognized and the right approaches found to govern sustainable charcoal production, distribution, marketing and utilization. The Government of South Sudan–FAO workshop aimed to work towards creating awareness on the impact of charcoal production and propose appropriate regulations to govern the charcoal production and utilisation sector in order to mitigate the effects of charcoal production on the environment.
According to Lino Wani, a farmer from Juba and workshop participant, “If we continue cutting trees for charcoal, it will bring us more problems. Please remember trees are our life and when you cut trees it is like you are killing people.”