Policy Brief - Biomass Energy: Marginalized but an Important Energy Source for the Majority in Tanzania
The energy balance in Tanzania is dominated by traditional use of biomass in the form of charcoal and firewood. Biomass energy has consistently figured around 90% of national energy demand for over 30 years. It is estimated that more than 95% of households in Tanzania use firewood and charcoal as their source of energy for cooking. In urban areas, about 71% of all urban households consume charcoal and about 19% consume firewood.

In Dar es Salaam, 91% of all households consumed charcoal in 2012, and 3% consumed firewood. Approximately 90% of all rural households cook with firewood. In 2012 about 2,333,743 tons of charcoal was consumed by 11.12 millions of people which was worth US$ 950 million and the users of firewood were 32.29 million which was worth US$ 5 billion. The production and supply of fuel wood is one of the country’s biggest industries in terms of revenue generated and jobs created. Commercial fuel wood in 2010 generates more than TZS 1.6 trillion (US $1 billion) in revenues for hundreds of thousands of rural and urban. The annual charcoal business volume in Dar es Salaam was estimated to be worth US $ 350 million in 2010. Rural earnings from charcoal are greater than those from coffee, tea, cotton, sugar, cashews, etc.

Projection of Biomass energy Use in Tanzania Various studies have indicated increase in users of charcoal and firewood as a primary source of energy. World Bank, 2009 reported increased proportion of households in Dar es Salaam using charcoal from 47% to 71% by 2001 and 2007 respectively. Ishengoma, 2015 reported increase in proportion of household using charcoal in Tanzania from 20.7% to 24.8% between 2010 and 2012 respectively (Table. 1).

Under business as usual scenario the number of people using charcoal (both urban and rural) is expected to nearly double in between 2012 to 2030 (Table 2), with charcoal rising as a percentage of total household consumption from approximately a quarter of all households today to nearly 30% in 2030.

Increase in the proportion of charcoal and firewood users could have been attributed by a number of reasons including:-

Affordability: Woodfuel provides an affordable source of energy for the majority in rural and urban population in Tanzania, at least relative to the alternatives. The alternatives are either less convenient or experience difficulties in equitable availability and distribution (e.g., electricity and LPG).

Poverty: Normally, poverty has a bearing to the type(s) and quantities of energy consumed. Around 12 million Tanzanian people are still below the poverty line. While the poverty headcount declined by around 18 percent, the absolute number of poor people only declined by 10 percent from 13.2 million to 11.9 million from 2007 to 2011/12, due to population growth. Likewise, the absolute number of extreme poor decreased by only 7 percent, declining from 4.5 million to 4.2 million5. Demand for woodfuel in the country will continue to increase as long as current unemployment levels continue to rise and sources of income continue to dwindle. Economic development generally leads to a shift up the so-called “energy ladder”.

Increased population: Consumption of charcoal and firewood is increasing with increasing population. In 1967, the population of Tanzania was 12.3 million and the forest area was 44 million ha which was equivalent to 3.6 ha per person whereas in 2012, population increased to 44.91 million while the forest area was 48 million ha equivalent to 1.07 ha per person. In year 2011, it was estimated that 90.8% of round wood harvested in Tanzania were used as wood fuel. Most of the fuel-wood and charcoal are consumed by households for domestic energy.

Increased urbanization: The urban population is increasing annually in Tanzania at a rate of 5.36% (2010-15 estimates). Charcoal is mainly consumed by urban households; increasing urbanization is leading to increase in charcoal consumption.

Use of inefficient biomass conversion technologies: To produce one ton of charcoal using the traditional kiln, 10 - 12 tons of wood are required. Efficiency of traditional firewood stoves range between 8-10 percent and charcoal stove is 15 percent.