CURRENTLY all regions of Tanzania are experiencing scarcity of household energy for cooking in particular firewood and charcoal with negative development impact to women and children who are inclined to spend long hours and walk long distances to fetch firewood also exposure to polluting smoke that is affecting their health.
Recently the Ministry of Energy and Minerals reported that due to development in the power sector, the problem of power rationing is now solved.
However, solution to the prevailing scarcity of energy for household cooking to the majority of the low income population that relies on biomass fuels (firewood and charcoal) was not mentioned.
In broad terms, supply of energy services in Tanzania could be categorised into two groups namely: Energy for survival that include energy for household cooking that accounts for over 91% of the total energy consumed and energy for development that covers energy demand for industry, mining, commerce, transportation, agriculture and the service industry like hotels that accounts for around 9% of the total energy consumed.
As such availability of affordable, reliable, efficient and sustainable energy for household cooking is a pre-requisite for household economic growth and poverty reduction as no family can survive without energy for cooking its meals.
Long term goal for the energy sector is to develop an enabling policy environment that will provide conditions for all households to use modern energy sources for cooking. As a result priority for the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) for the past 50 years (1961 to 2011) and for the future 50 years (2012 to 2061) will be on electricity.
However, proven field observations have shown that contribution of the electricity sector for household cooking has been negligible. Currently majority of the low and middle income population relies on un-renewable biomass fuels (firewood, charcoal, farm and animal residues) as their main sources of household energy for cooking.
To obtain a realistic picture of household energy for cooking in Tanzania, MEM in collaboration with the Rural Energy Agency (REA) and the National Bureau of Statistics conducted a detailed study in 2011 and produced a report dated - October 2011 entitled "Baseline survey report for energy access and use in Tanzania mainland - 2011."
The report concluded that 98.3% of the total population surveyed relied on biomass-based fuels (firewood, charcoal and farm residues) for cooking and they have little opportunities for upward fuel switch to modern energy sources due to low income.
Less that 0.2% of the surveyed population is using electricity or LPG for cooking. Use of low quality biomass fuels like sisal leaves, eurphobia (Minyaa) grasses and cow dung is increasing country-wise due to severe shortage of firewood leading to lowering of living standards of women and children also causing environmental degradation.
Main indicators resulting from the prevailing scarcity of household energy for cooking in particular the un-renewable use of biomass fuel are: The lack of trees and shrubs in most landscape of Tanzania; drying of streams and springs due to upstream destruction of water catchment areas; women walking long distances and spending many hours per day to fetch firewood and increase of charcoal prices in urban areas where a bag of charcoal weighing on average 70 kg is sold at TZS 45,000 in Dar es Salaam causing economic hardship to low income families.
Recent research data also shows that due to poverty, the number of households depending on biomass fuels for cooking is increasing even in urban areas like Dar es Salaam with availability of LPG and electricity as alternative sources of energy for cooking. Also firewood which used to be a free commodity is now a commercial commodity in all markets in Tanzania.
Expected result of giving priority to development of the electricity sector for the past 50 years (1961 -2011) could be replacing biomass fuels used for cooking with electricity. Estimates shows that at least 60,000 MW of electricity would be required to replace biomass-based fuels currently (2012) used for cooking in Tanzania.
However, based on existing medium to long term electricity development strategies the possibilities of generating 60,000 MW of electricity in the near future is rated low. The 2012 MEM reports indicate that by end of June 2012, the total installed electricity capacity in Tanzania was 1,375.74 MW and electricity peak demand was around 820.35 MW of which the nation had some difficulties to attain on sustainable basis.
Due to experienced low contribution of electricity to household cooking, in the future criteria for setting energy development priorities should be guided by the National Energy Policy of 2003 vision and mission.
The mission is to create conditions for the provision of safe, reliable, efficient, cost effective and environmentally appropriate energy services to all sectors on sustainable basis. By fulfilling the mission, the energy sector will contribute to social economic and in the long term to perspective poverty eradication.
Consideration of energy services to a sector should be compared on common energy units i.e. Tonne of Oil Equivalent (TOE) or Megawatts (MW) and the expected proportion of the total national population that will benefit from the energy initiatives.
For example, the total energy used for household cooking using biomass fuels is equivalent to 60,000 MW of electricity that is utilised by over 42 million of the population as compared to installed electricity capacity of 1,375.74 MW of which less than one million people are using electricity for cooking.
Common energy units used for calculating the national energy balance indicating contribution of different energy sources could also be used to enhance making of realistic and informed decision in setting development priorities for the energy sector.
Decision of giving priority to the electricity sector that accounts for 2% of the total energy consumed in the country and ignoring the other sectors in particular the biomass sector that accounts for over 90% of the total energy used in the country could be counter-productive as environmental degradations like floods and drought resulting from destruction of forests and trees on farmland could negatively affect development of the electricity infrastructure, resulting to non-attainment of development goals for all sectors.
For example, destruction of catchment forests upstream is the underlying causes of water scarcity for hydro-power generation and siltation of dams. Frequent floods resulting from upstream soil erosion is the underlying causes for destruction of power transmission lines, destruction of bridges and other road communication systems for electricity supply.
Environmental destruction is also affecting the agriculture sector and water supply to the local communities that are involved in clearing forests.
For sound development of the energy sector, integrated planning taking into account contributions from all sources of energy and their uses to meet community needs is an important aspect for future consideration by MEM, REA and other stakeholders in the energy sector. Setting of narrow priorities could lock the nation into vicious circle of energy underdevelopment in spite of its abundant energy resources.
For example, analysis of MEM energy development budget estimates for the fiscal year 2012/2013 provides justification on the need for integrated energy planning and development.
MEM requested a total of 5,807,711,000,000/- for energy development projects of which a total of 5,807,711,000,000/- will be directed to development of electricity projects including solar PV, total of TZS 261,000,000 will be for construction of biogas plants and TZS 1,330,000,000 for facilitating development of energy carbon financing project through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
Activities to increase biomass supply and its efficient use in particular for household cooking that accounts for over 90% of the total energy consumed in Tanzania of which its current utilization is un-renewable and is silent in the MEM budget estimates.
The underlying causes of the prevailing scarcity of household energy for cooking in Tanzania could therefore be attributed to non-development of strategies to meet energy needs for household cooking covering both demand and supply sides.
As a result, the Tanzania energy balance has remained static for over 50 years with biomass fuels accounting for 90% of total energy consumed, petroleum products 8%, electricity 1.2%, wind, solar and coal 0.8% due to the unrealistic and un-integrated trend of setting energy development priority.
If the prevailing tendency of giving funding priority to electricity projects will not be modified, the poor community will continue to experience difficulties in meeting their basic energy needs in particular for cooking.
However, in their struggle for survival the poor will continue to use whatever biomass material is available as sources of energy for cooking, causing environmental degradation whose impact will affect both the rich and the poor.
A good example is the un-expected floods in Dar es Salaam of December 2011 of which its severity was intensified by destruction of forests cover in the upstream of Coast, Tanga and Morogoro regions caused by extensive clearing of forests and trees for charcoal and firewood trade that affected all categories of Dar es Salaam community irrespective of wealth.
In brief, the effects of scarcity of household energy for cooking and its impact to poverty reduction and possible mitigation measures are well covered by various research findings.
However, policy makers and planners have been slow to utilize the existing research findings and recommendations which is a common weakness to most sectors. The few sample research findings described below illustrate that the scarcity of household energy for cooking in Tanzania is a long problem that has not received adequate solution or ignored by experts for unknown reasons.
The Tanzania Five Year National Village Afforestation Plan 1982/83 to 1986/87 by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in collaboration with MEM concluded that "The high rate of deforestation caused by fuel wood gathering have caused many socio-economic problems, mainly environmental degradation.
Experience shows that rainfall patterns have changed in many of those areas in which people have destroyed their forests.
Worse still, what used to be potential areas for agricultural production have been turned to marginal land and even to waste land by erosion. By destroying the forests we are also destroying the land, hence getting no food and water."
A research report of the Tanzania Rural Energy Consumption Survey entitled 'The Poor Man's Energy Crisis" conducted in 1983 by the Rockefeller Foundation New York, USA concluded that 'The rural wood energy crisis in Tanzania is more serious than has hitherto been considered.
There is therefore an urgent need not to only reverse the trend of deforestation, but also to establish rural energy planning to ensure energy needs for household cooking.
A research report by the Scandinavian Institute of African Studies - Uppsala (1986) entitled "Tanzania crisis and struggle for survival" concluded that "Tanzanian forest resources are being depleted at an alarming rate because of the ever increasing demand of fuel wood and that efforts have not been strong enough to counteract this tendency."
A SADC report on the Southern African Environment - Profiles of the SADC countries of 1993 indicated that in Tanzania deforestation with reduced water-flow is a problem due to commercial exploitation of fuel wood for household, charcoal making and bush fires.
Another SADC report titled 'The Fuel wood Trap" 1988 indicated that a diminishing supply of fuel wood automatically increases the demand made on women's labour time, with all the negative effects that this implies for their other work in agricultural production, child-rearing and housekeeping.
This inevitably affects their health as well as that of their families. Women's labour time used for collecting firewood is constantly undervalued resource, but it is the backbone of the rural economy. By alleviating the burden of fuel wood collection, agricultural production can increase.
A report by the Vice-President's Office - Division of Environment; titled "State of the Environment Report 2008" on Energy Sector it concluded that "About 92% of the total energy consumption is based on biomass, of which 80% is consumed in rural areas mainly for cooking.
Unfortunately the present demand for biomass-based energy cannot be met on a sustainable basis. Some critical environmental problems as a result of irrational exploitation of wood fuel sources are deforestation, soil erosion, desertification and loss of biodiversity. There is no immediate renewable energy substitute for cooking."