Celebrating the International Day of Forests: Sustainable charcoal in Côte d’Ivoire

21 March 2017

Women from the MALEBI women’s association carry firewood harvested in the Ahua gazetted forest, Côte d’Ivoire. MALEBI is implementing ITTO project PD 725/13 Rev.2 (F) to ensure the sustainability of its local charcoal business and restore the Ahua forest. Photo: MALEBI

A small grant from ITTO in 2009 provided the stimulus for a women’s association in Côte d’Ivoire to improve charcoal production using efficient, eco-friendly techniques, in the process increasing the standard of living in the local community and raising awareness of the importance of forest conservation. Now, the MALEBI women’s association is implementing a larger ITTO project to reforest and rehabilitate the nearby Ahua gazetted forest to ensure a continuous supply of wood for charcoal production.
It is estimated that nearly three-quarters of households in Côte d’Ivoire use wood charcoal or firewood to meet their daily energy needs. Charcoal production in the country increased by 22% in the ten years to 2012 (from 400 850 tonnes in 2003 to 488 128 tonnes in 2012), and firewood production increased by 4% in the same period, to 9.03 million m3.(1)
The Ahua gazetted forest supplies wood for charcoal to meet the cooking and heating needs of the citizens of nearby Dimbokro and Abidjan, and the charcoal business is a significant employer of women and youths. The MALEBI women are involved in the charcoal business, but they have become alarmed at the degraded state of their forest. ITTO project PD 725/13 Rev.2 (F) is enabling them to reforest and restore the 4500-hectare Ahua forest using species such as kassod (Cassia siamea), samba (Triplochiton scleroxylon) and teak (Tectona grandis), and they are also growing cash crops. The aim is to reconcile the short-term subsistence needs of their families for food and woodfuel with the medium- to long-term need to rehabilitate the forest.
The MALEBI women’s association wants to achieve a shift in local attitudes towards forests, in which communities become forest caretakers. In part, this will be achieved by building local capacity in seedling production, nursery establishment, forest plantation establishment and maintenance, and agroforestry. The project has considerable potential for replication elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire and beyond, as recognized by a recent mission to the project site by the World Bank’s Forest Investment Program.
This year’s theme of the International Day of Forests is “wood energy” in recognition of the important role of wood in providing rural communities with essential energy. Globally, an estimated 2.4 billion people rely on wood as a source of energy for cooking and heating, according to FAO.
Watch the video broadcasted on BRAVE PAYSAN on reforestation with Cassia siamea by MALEBI conducted under ITTO project PD 725/13 Rev.2 (F)
Watch the video broadcasted on BRAVE PAYSAN on charcoal production by the MALEBI women's association
Watch the short video produced by FAO for the 2017 International Day of Forests
 (1) Figures supplied by MALEBI.