Charcoal supply chains from Mabalane to Maputo: who benefits?

  • Articles in SCI Journals
  • Dec, 2016

Baumert, S., Luz, A.C., Fisher, J., Vollmer, F., Ryan, C., Patenaude, G., Zorrilla-Miras, P., Artur, L., Nhantumbo, I. & Macqueen, D. (2016) Charcoal supply chains from Mabalane to Maputo: who benefits?

Energy for Sustainable Development, 33, 129-138. DOI:10.1016/j.esd.2016.06.003 (IF2015 2,379; Q2 Green & Sustainable Science & Technology)

In urban centres of Mozambique, charcoal is the major energy source for cooking. Growing demand drives high wood extraction rates over increasing areas of miombo and mopane woodlands. Charcoal production can lead to changes in ecosystem service provision and woodland degradation while also significantly contributing to rural income and, possibly, poverty alleviation. As such, understanding charcoal production and trade has important implications for rural areas and for the sustainable development of woodland resources. Here, we investigate charcoal production and trade through empirical research conducted in Gaza Province, the main charcoal supply area for Maputo, Mozambique.

We analyse the present structure of the main charcoal supply chains from Gaza province to Maputo and the profit distribution along them. Seven villages in the Mabalane district, Gaza, at different stages of engagement with the charcoal industry, were selected for investigation. We conducted household surveys and semi-structured interviews with key informants (village leaders, charcoal producers, licence holders, wholesalers, transporters and forest technicians), from May to October 2014.

Our results highlight two main charcoal supply chains comprising four main actor groups a) Local small-scale operators producing charcoal on a small-scale with household labour, who sell to wholesalers b) Large-scale operators producing and commercialising large volumes of charcoal using migrant labour, who sell their own production to wholesalers. While charcoal production constitutes an important income source for rural households in Mabalane, under supply chain a) more than 90% of the monetary benefits do not reach local communities and remain with external agents. Two of the main factors impeding the generation of greater revenues at community level are: 1) bureaucratic burdens in obtaining charcoal commercialisation rights in the form of licences; and 2) weak institutional capacities for woodland resource governance.

We conclude that access to markets and control over woodlands is key if local communities are to generate greater benefits from charcoal production while aiming at sustainable charcoal production. Strong local institutions for obtaining commercialisation rights and managing woodland resources have to be developed, while the restructuring of the licencing system in favour of small-scale producers and more rigorous control of the regulations could support this process.