FORESTRY FOR LOCAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME GCP/INT/365/SWE
WOOD FUEL SURVEYS
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS v
1. DEFINING THE SCOPE OF WOOD FUEL SURVEYS
by Russell deLuoia 5
2. RURAL FUELWOODt SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS
by Amulya Kumar N. Reddy 29
3. URBAN DEMAND: STUDYING THE COMMERCIAL ORGANIZATION
OF WOOD FUEL SUPPLIES
by W.B. Morgan 53
4. METHODS OF FACT FINDING
by David Brokensha and Alfonso Peter Castro 75
5. WHAT SORT OF INFORMATION ?
by D. Brokensha, A.P. Castro, A.K.N. Reddy and W.B. Morgan 97
I DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF WOOD FUEL SURVEYS
by Russell deLucia 125
II SUMMARIES OF SELECTED WOOD FUEL SURVEYS 131
III (a) MEASURING COOKING FUEL ECONOMY
by Howard S. Geller and Gautam S. Dutt 147
(b) MEASURING FUELWOOD AND CHARCOAL
by Keith Openshaw 173
IV ENERGY USE IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY
by Russell deLucia 179
LIST OF REFERENCES
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4. METHODS OF FACT FINDING
David Brokensha and Alfonso Peter Castro
1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS 76
1.1 Topics on Which to Gather Information 77
1.2 Suggestions 79
2. DATA COLLECTION 79
2.1 Written Sources 80
2.2 Key Informants and Informal Informational Networks 80
2.3 Observations 81
2.3.1 Participant observation 81
2.3.2 Nonparticipant observation 82
2.3.3 Benefits and problems 82
2.3.4 Time allocation studies 83
2.4 Interviews 84
2.5 Group Interviews 85
2.6 Questionnaires 86
3. SELECTING RESEARCH SITES AND STUDY PARTICIPANTS 88
3.1 Defining Community 88
3.2 The Representativeness of a Community 90
3.3 Choice of Community 91
3.4 Households as the Basic Unit of Study 92
3.5 Other Socio-Cultural and Economic Units of Study 92
3.6 Sampling 92
3.7 Sample Size 94
4. FIELD WORKERS AND STUDY LOGISTICS 94
4.1 Selection 94
4.2 Training and Supervision 95
4.3 Logistics 96
5. CONCLUSION 96
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1. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
We present here some guidelines for carrying out social surveys in connection with
wood fuel projects. Our aim is to indicate what techniques are available, what sort of
information should be gathered. We generalize, because generalizations can be made, but
we remind readers that there is much variety in communities, and each specific situation
requires its own approach, and its own modification of general surveys. Moreover, the
amount of manpower, financial and organizational resources available to fuelwood
investigators inevitably varies and further constrains generalizations about how surveys
"ought to be" carried out.
Surveys can be conducted in many ways, from a small-scale, quickly organized
examination of one specific local situation, to a year-round national survey on a large
scale. In this paper we are primarily concerned with more restricted surveys, not with
elaborate national surveys. Surveys vary not only in scale, but also.in location,
objectives and methods. We indicate which of these is appropriate for specific needs.
No single source-written, oral interview, observation, questionnaire- should be regarded
as sufficient in revealing all aspects of fuelwood use. A combination of methodological
approaches and procedures is recommended in conducting any investigation of the
sociological context of fuelwood use. The aim is to build up many sources, so as to
cross-check for reliability.
An ideal survey would permit generous allocations of time, and people who were
experienced in social surveys. The ideal period would be at least a complete year, which
would permit the important seasonal differences (how is wood gathered in the rainy season?)
to be noted. But we recognize that most readers will not have the resources to do an
ideal survey. In many cases the survey will be done in response to an urgent request or
order from a government ministry or an international agency. "The district administrator
at X says that the people have a big problem getting firewood go and find out what
exactly the position is. We need a report by next month." Here a quick simple survey is
all that is possible, but we believe that it is possible to get good and relevant
information even in such difficult circumstances, and we suggest ways of doing this.
Sometimes officials will have the responsibility to resist pressure to do a survey
in too short a time, where it would be impossible to collect the required information.
Rapid surveys can be valuable, but they have their limits of usefulness and accuracy.
These suggestions are intended for people like forestry, agricultural and other
government officials who are called on to make a survey of wood fuels and other fuels.
We need to emphasize the importance of other fuels, for in some parts of the world, at
least at some seasons, fuels like crop residues or animal dung may be the main source
of cooking fuel. A good fuelwood survey is really a social survey, because it deals not
only with wood, but with how a particular society manages its resources, with factors
such as control of, and access to, trees; division and organization of labour; patterns
of using fuel. These reflect the basic values of that society, showing who is important
and privileged, and therefore does not suffer when fuel is scarce or conversely, it will
also show which social groups and individuals, such as the poor, women, elderly, and
handicapped, suffer the greatest hardships from fuel scarcity. A proper fuelwood
survey should always involve a two-way process: on the one hand is the resource wood
and other fuel sources and on the other hand are the rules (and technology) that society
uses for managing that resource.
We stress the need to be flexible, to use common sense and courtesy, and to respect
the views, values and rights of the people themselves. They should not be viewed as a
passive entity waiting to be developed, but rather as a people who have their own
perceptions and their own technical knowledge, and who have much to contribute.
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1.1 Tonics on which to gather information
This is intended to indicate the more important topics for investigation. Exactly
which areas are explored, and in what depth, depends on specific circumstances of location,
other information available, and precise needs of the survey, as well as on funds, time
and staff available. Much information can be gathered, at least in broad outline, fairly
easily and rapidly. In all surveys there is need of a balance between obtaining too much
and too little information. For fuel projects, the aim should be to be able to decide on
appropriate questions that will provide useful answers and to present enough basic
information so as to make the actual fuel data meaningful. Information about collection
of firewood, or manufacture of charcoal, or cooking patterns, does not make much sense
unless it is related to the social background, to the specific people and place being
studied. Information should always be gathered with fuel in mind, and it is important to
resist collecting interesting facts on every aspect of life, then not knowing what to do
with the results. No single check-list adequately covers all informational needs. Rather,
what follows suggests the range of information that may be relevant, depending on the
objectives and limits of each survey. First the objectives must be established, then
the next step is to work out principles of selection what needs to be included? What
sort of questions must be asked?
Demography. "How many people live in this area?", is clearly a major factor in
determining the demand for fuel. Other questions concern the density (how many people
per square kilometer?) and the age and sex distribution. How many elderly or sick people
who may be handicapped in getting fuelwood? What are the rates for births and deaths (if
known) and how do these compare to national figures? What are the rates and patterns of
migration (is it seasonal or permanent? are the people moving in from other areas?).
These comparisons are important, as we need to know how "typical" any particular area is.
Environment. What is the physical area that we are dealing with? Is this clearly
marked or should it be arbitrarily defined? What resources (especially land, soils,
vegetation) are available? What is known about climate, water, slopes, drainage? This
information provides some sense of adequacy of reserves (actual and potential) of fuel.
Historical. There are two good reasons for knowing at least the general outline of
local history, of recognizing the significance of important places and major persons.
First, the present can only be understood in relation to the past, even in such an
apparently ordinary study such as fuel. Second, local people regard their history as
important, so it is both expedient and courteous to know something about significant
events. Patterns of fuel use should not be considered as being historically static,
since incidents and changes such as population movements, the expansion of farming, the
building of roads, wars, or the growth of commercial timber operations may have had
important impacts on fuel usage.
Community. We are studying a community of people, the most important part of
which is the relatively stable set of relationships between the people relationships
between men and women, old and young, neighbours, kinsmen, in-laws, landlords and
tenants, rich and poor, and so on. The relationships involve both conflict and
cooperation, and are expressed in specific activities, one of which is a set of activities
that concerns fuel. So fuel activities will both help to clarify the social structure of
a community, and also be more intelligible when the social structure is understood.
The community will usually focus on a central place, a village or a hamlet, and
there will generally be clear patterns of settlement and land use, which relate, of
course, to the environment.
Domestic. It should be possible to make a rough typology of "households", a term
which although sometimes vague, is better than "family" or "farm". Household may usually
be defined as a group of people that shares a common kitchen (or cooking place) and that
recognizes one household head. Households can be distinguished by size, and numbers of
members affects both demand for, and supply of, fuelwood. Households also differ in
income, which is usually difficult to measure as many people are unable or unwilling to
give precise figures of income. So we look for 'proxy indicators' that will give a good
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idea of income and wealth. These may include land (ownership and use), livestock
permanent trees, type and size of compound and houses (materials, roof, furniture),
and selected personal and household possessions like jewelry, watches, bicycles, radios,
clothing it is easy to establish a simple index for a particular area, then select a
sample of households (see below) and use a Guttman scale to show the wealth graduations
(see field manuals recommended in subsequent sections of the paper for description of
The purpose of this is to establish the range and extent of inequality and
variation between households, and to relate this to patterns of fuel use, and fuel sale
(especially for export).
Social and Economic. This category seeks further information on differentation -
how is access to land defined and who controls/owns the land? How many are landless or
nearlandless, how many rent land? These are crucial questions in considering access to
fuelwood. Who owns trees, if this is separate from land ownership? What are the main
production systems, for agriculture (subsistence and cash-crops) and livestock? What
are the general patterns for technology, markets, credit and indebtedness, commerce,
communications, occupations, division of labour by age and sex? What are the main social,
ethnic, and religious divisions, and how do these relate to economic status? While it is
not necessary to obtain detailed precise information on all these topics, they are all
significant for fuelwood. For example, the presence of an established, regular and
thriving market, connected to the outside by all-weather roads, will facilitate fuelwood
Services. What services are provided by government or private agencies in the
fields of education, health, agricultural extension, forestry, community development and
commerce? Where are offices located? How often do officials visit? How do the services
compare with those available to other communities? This sort of information would be
important especially if the survey calls for recommendations such as tree-planting.
Political-Adminfistrative. What are the formal and informal channels of authority?
What are the links to the regional (and national) centers of power? What is the extent
of local participation in making decisions? What laws, regulations, and local informal
sanctions affect fuelwood e.g. who is allowed to cut which trees?
This list is not comprehensive, and needs to be modified for particular
circumstances. It would be easy to decide, for example, how much information was
necessary on education, apart from basic essentials such as details on schools (location,
grades or standards, male and female pupils, teachers) and literacy. In some areas
residential schools may be major buyers and consumers of fuelwood, or teachers may be the
main buyers of charcoal; in other areas, a high proportion of children in school may mean
fewer children available for help in fuel collection. The aim should always be to relate
the enquiries to the specific goal, fuel. Thus, it might be important to ascertain how
a fuel shortage affected diet and health. In arranging a social science survey, one
needs to be constantly critical "Am I asking the right questions? What have I
neglected? How can I get information quickly on this subject?"
Fortunately, fuel in many areas is still a relatively open topic. Unless an
individual is engaged in illicit activity like theft of fuelwood, cutting trees in a
forest reserve, or selling charcoal without a licence, he or she is likely to be
cooperative and responsive, as most people already perceive fuel as a problem, and they
welcome any prospect of alleviation. Even individuals who are technically involved in
illegal aspects of fuel use have often provided valuable information to investigators.
This depends, to a large extent, upon who the investigator is. That is to say, an
"independent" researcher may at times have an easier time gathering information on some
subjects than a forestry service officer, although this generalization is by no means
In all.cases an attempt should be made to compare the community studied with others
in the same locality, region or nation. In come countries (India, Kenya) much good
information is available for comparative purposes. For most countries, however, there
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is little detailed information about fuelwood availability and use. Thus, it is
advisable that when conducting a survey, some specific areas be selected for surveying.
Certain basic information on the community must be gathered, but it will seldom
be necessary to collect detailed information on, for example, ritual, magical beliefs,
or details of marriage. However, it will be desirable to know whether ceremonies affect
fuelwood use, as does the Hindu practice of cremation, which creates a great demand for
wood. It will be necessary, regarding marriage, to know how divorce affects a woman's
chores and her access to firewood. Does a divorced woman who lives alone, or with her
children, face greater difficulties in ensuring an adequate fuelwood supply? The point
is to determine which sorts of information are relevant, and to strike a balance between
knowing enough about a community to have a good general picture, on one hand, and on the
other hand, forever collecting trivial items because they may come in handy.
Most guides to anthropological fieldwork are not particularly relevant for our
present purposes, because they apply to situations where much detailed and precise
information must be collected, and long periods of fieldwork are involved. For many
fuelwood surveys, there will not be time for elaborate and detailed investigations, and
it will be impractical to become bogged down in fine questions of statistical
significance and methodology, although surveys must aim for accuracy.
"Rapid rural appraisal", uses relatively simple techniques, and according to Robert
Chambers "Simple is optimal" (Chambers, 1978). Here are some simple suggestions:
1. Walk, observe, listen and ask questions.
2. Remember that a quick visual survey can accomplish much.
3. Be flexible, use common sense and realise that no single approach is
4. Always be aware of the range and variation of behaviour and attitudes
as well as of the cluster in the middle. Try to discover norms or
5. Involve the local people in the survey.
6. In interviews and conversations, develop your own style that is
congenial to your personality, rather than attempting to use an
imagined superior model.
7. Don't ask more than you need: avoid collection of unnecessary
8. Look at other, comparative communities.
We provide more details below of how to implement these suggestions.
2. DATA COLLECTION
In this section we present an overview of the procedures used in collecting field
data, to introduce the reader to basic methods that will be useful in conducting a fuel
survey. Those readers interested in more in-depth treatments, can consult some of the
standard books on field methods. (See, for example, Yang, 1955; Mbithi, 1974; Kearl,
1976; Connell and Lipton, 1977. There is also a good discussion of methodology in case
studies such as Lewis, 1951; Hill, 1972).
The following section is divided into six parts. The first describes various
written sources containing information on rural communities. Second, the advantages and
disadvantages of using key informants are discussed. Part'three considers the importance
of observations, with participant and nonparticipant observation, as well as time
allocation studies, being reviewed. In part four, interviews are examined. Questionnaires
and how to frame questions are dealt with in part five. 'The final part is concerned with
methodological pitfalls and biases and with their resolution. Usually information is
gathered in several ways, one being used to supplement the other.' For example, in
collecting information on fuel used for cooking methods include measurement (of fuel used),
interviews (what people say they do), observation (trying to decide what they actually do
Using ears, eyes, and nosel). No method is superior, all are necessary.
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2.1 Written Sources
Information on particular rural communities or regions may be available from a
variety of official, historical, anthropological, or other sources. First, reports from
the central government, such as the census bureau, department of agriculture or the
ministry responsible for forestry, or technical ministries of roads, public works or
water, may contain community level data. The quality, quantity, and frequency of
publication of the data vary considerably nationally.
Local governments and local branches of national agencies may be able to provide
useful information. For example, local tax rate records were instrumental in selecting
stratified random samples for a fuelwood consumption survey in the Sudan (Digernes,
1977:51). Local forestry offices may have records on the sale of trees, or estimates of
illegal cuttings. Agricultural officers are often a good source of information, as are
officers such as Kenya's District Development officers.
The social science literature is another important source of written information.
Farm management studies, ethnographic reports, and sociological surveys can supply
valuable background facts on a particular community, region, ethnic group, or other
socio-cultural grouping. Unpublished limited circulation reports can be very useful.
These studies should be treated in the same way as any "fallible" historical source. At
best, they provide a baseline against which present conditions can be compared and
contrasted and are a good source of hypotheses to guide and direct the survey. In terms
of specific data on fuel use, however, the social science literature generally contains
little detailed information. Most major cultures of the world are represented by at
least one outstanding ethnography which provides a reasonably up-to-date social and
ecological account. A good example is provided by the Ethnographic Survey of Africa,
which covers all major ethnic groups, and which provides excellent basic information, and
bibliographies, on social, economic, domestic, and ritual life. These volumes, in
English and French, are published by the International African Institute.
Other written sources may shed light on a community, its history, and patterns of
fuel and resource use. Scientific accounts of local resources, local histories, church
records, travellers' accounts, and records of plantations or mines are important sources.
Once again, caution must be employed when using such sources as some records might be
out-of-date and incomplete.
Available written records help to provide the historical background to the
particular unit of study and population. Moreover, they can help to establish the social,
cultural, political, economic, and ecological context of fuelwood and other energy uses in
the community. As Oscar Lewis' account (1951) of Mexican villagers has shown, local patterns
of forest use change throughout time, and an understanding of these changes and their
implications requires an understanding of the local milieu and its relationship with larger
socio-economic and political forces.
Local universities, technical colleges and research institutes may be good sources
for unpublished research. Inquiries should be directed not only at the social sciences,
but also at natural sciences. A botanist, zoologist, ecologist or geologist, for example,
who had worked systematically in an area, could be an excellent source for certain sorts
2.2 Key Informants and Informal Informational Networks
A key informant is a person who is knowledgeable, who has contacts and who is
willing to talk. Sometimes key informants are self-selected, in that the local "Big Men"
(as they are called in many parts of the world) are often the first to present themselves
to a field investigator. The key informant is often a prominent, articulate person
(usually a man) of some consequence, such as a village headman, merchant, landlord,
large farmer or headmaster of the local school. Important key informants may also include
people who are not members of the community but who have valuable experience and insights,
such as an agricultural or administrative officer, or a social scientist who has done
research in the area. In a fuel survey, it might be advisable to choose a specialist such
as a charcoal-maker or a woodcutter to supplement the views of the leaders.
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Two disadvantages of using key informants are the problems of bias and
representation. In selecting or, as sometimes happens, being selected by a key
informant, it is well to remember that no one individual can ever represent all
perceptions, all viewpoints, of his/her community. People always differ according to
sex and age, and usually other differences are the result of wealth, status, occupation,
or particular sorts of knowledge and insights. Sometimes an outside researcher will be
adopted by an apparently well-informed and friendly person who later turns out to be
marginal to that community. He may be marginal because of his unorthodox views, or
because he has spent many years outside the community, or because of his personal history;
this means that he will not be a good source of typical ideas and attitudes of that society,
although he may help in analyzing behavior, from his unusual 'outsider' viewpoint. In
general, key informants should not be relied on for information without other means of
data collection that will check their accuracy. In spite of the disadvantages, key
informants can be useful in fuel surveys. Where there are cost and time constraints, use
of key informants may be a useful and rapid method for collecting data. Indeed, the only
effective way of getting certain kinds of information quickly may be to find one
well-informed and talkative person. At the preliminary stage of research, key informants
can help the investigator to become familiar with the area, can explain local aspects
of the particular topic of investigation, and can also help to develop preliminary
hypotheses to guide the study. These hypotheses can be used in developing pilot questions,
to be tested on other people. It is essential to develop a network of informants,
extending out, perhaps, from the original key informant. One advantage of making extensive
enquiries is that one builds up a network of people to see. "Oh, you must talk to Father
Damiano, he lived in X for many years." "Haven't you seen Senor Rodriques yet? He used
to sell goods in that village every week." "What about Kofi? You know he was the driver
of the 'Sea Never Dry' lorry, and he really knows those places." Eventually, then the
network starts closing i.e., no new names are presented one can feel reasonably
confident that major sources have been contacted.
Key informants are unusual people, and thus do not necessarily provide typical or
valid sociological information. But they do help the outsider to appreciate the following
points: there is no such thing as a simple question; everything is related to everything
else; answers depend on questions; there are usually apparently endless levels of
complexity. Given this state of complexity, the exact nature of questions asked, and who
is asked, are clearly of great importance. Even such apparently simple, straightforward
questions as: "Where do you collect firewood?" "Who owns this forest?" "Do you pay fees
to cut wood?" "Do you sell charcoal at the market on Fridays?" "Who takes meals regularly
in your household?" may prove to be extremely complicated, and answerable only in
situation-specific terms. This means simply that each question must be related to
specific set of circumstances, or a particular person, because if these are changed, the
nature of the question will be changed. It is essential to search for the right question,
the one that will be meaningful to respondents and that will produce the information and
explanation desired. A good key informant can be especially helpful in aiding the
fieldworker to ask appropriate questions in the clearest and most productive manner.
The foundation of data collection in social research is observation. In field
research we use several different modes of observation, three forms of which are
discussed below: participant observation, nonparticipant observation, and time allocation
2.3.1 Particinant observation
Participant observation has been a major research strategy of anthropologists,
involving a combination of informal interviewing data being collected in a relatively
unstructured and flexible manner. The investigator usually decides beforehand what
particular sorts of activities are to be observed and recorded, and even the form of
the record. Fieldwork generally occurs over a prolonged period, during which time the
researcher builds up sufficient rapport with the study population. To some extent,
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participant observation allows the observer to become an "insider". That is, the
investigator directly participates in the study population's activities, perhaps
accompanying and helping household members gather fuelwood. This permits an
understanding of the study population and their activities from their own perspective.
At the same time, the difference between what people say and what they do can be
We stress the advantage of knowing some vernacular terms because knowledge of the
local language is important in participant observation. Short terms in the field, coupled
with pressures of other obligations, seldom allow for mastery of new language. Yet,
depending on interest and commitment, and to a lesser extent on linguistic ability, it is
not difficult to acquire a basic vocabulary, say twenty to a few hundred words, of
vernacular terms. In the fuel domain, for example, one should know, and use, even when
with an interpreter, local words for firewood, charcoal, crop residue, cow-dung, tree,
stove, man, woman, child, axe and so on. A knowledge, and correct pronunciation, of major
localities, personalities and main species of trees helps greatly in persuading
indigenous people that the enquirer is interested in understanding them. It is a
courtesy to them, and an acknowledgment of the value of their culture, it eases social
intercourse and it helps an outsider to appreciate local perceptions.
2.3.2 Nonoarticipant observation
In nonparticipant observation, the observer remains separate from his study
population's activities, and attempts to be unobtrusive. It may be possible to structure
the observation, at least to the extent of deciding to focus on a particular activity
such as wood-collecting, cooking, tree-planting, or fuelwood sales. There may be a
conscious structuring of observation in the sense of developing hypotheses to be tested,
or following up unclear relationships. But the observer must be careful not to impose
preconceived notions, and must remain flexible, and open to new interpretations. Although
the observer attempts to be unobtrusive, we do not recommend any attempts to deceive. For
both ethical and practical reasons, honesty really is the best policy in fieldwork, and
the people who are being observed have a right to know the scope and purpose of the study.
2.3.3 Benefits and problems with participant and nonparticipant observations
Participant and nonparticipant observations share several benefits and problems,
both being useful fact-finding methods when qualitative data is sought. This is
especially true when the investigator wants to describe a cycle of events. One example
is the description of cutting of trees, construction of hornos (earth ovens),
transporting, and the street sales involved in charcoal production and distribution. To
describe such a cycle of events, it is best to combine interviews and observations.
Both observation techniques are also useful where no records of previous studies
exist. These techniques are important in studying selected members of the community,
such as the aged or the handicapped, who might not be selected in a random or even
stratified sample. The techniques, especially participant observation, allow the
investigator to develop empathy for the study population through listening and
participating. Among the problems are constraints of cost and time.
In particular, participant observation requires a good rapport between the observer
and the observed. This may take a long time to develop. With studies of fuelwood, such
as descriptions of production techniques or marketing, this may be less of a problem
than with more sensitive issues such as village politics or wealth differences, though
the usage of fuel may be part and parcel of these more sensitive issues.
The difference between participant and non-participant observation may parallel
that between a resident and a non-resident observer. That is, participant observation
can seldom be achieved without the sort of acceptance and rapport that comes from being
at least a temporary resident of the community. Therefore, in deciding on the objectives
of the survey, this is a question to be considered does the survey need the sort of
detailed information that can only be gained by a resident observer, or will the costs
(in time, and money) outweigh the benefits? If so, can use be made of local assistants,
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No observation is "unstructured", in a strict sense. That is, the observer's
preconceptions, biases and "knowledge" all colour what is observed. Anyone who has
made observations in another culture or even in an unfamiliar sub-culture in one's
own society can recall, with embarrassment, the sense of "seeing and not seeing",
because of lack of understanding of the society. It is surprising how one can consciously
and effectively enlarge the vision, so that what was once a blur of vague shapes soon
fits into meaningful categories. For example, many first-time visitors to African
savanna country remark on the apparent sameness of the social and physical landscape,
and exclaim "How dull this is." But those of us who have spent some time in the savanna,
and who have opened our eyes, see it as a marvellously changing scene, where human
activities are fitted, in complex ways, to natural resources, at least until disturbed
by population pressure and technological innovation. The discovery of "the hidden
savanna" as has been experienced by many fieldworkers who have walked and listened
and truly observed is an exciting experience, reminding us how blind most of us are
until we open our eyes. Fieldwork means constant questioning and seeking new perceptions.
And this is especially important in studying a complex topic such as rural energy
In observation, then, one should have a clear idea of the main goal of the enquiry,
which is to gather information on fuel for instance; but it is also important to be
responsive to new stimuli, to be flexible and to follow new paths. Here is a delicate
dilemma: how far should one stray along new paths that might eventually lead to new
illuminations, and to what extent should one follow a systematic schedule? Ultimately,
the observer will be guided by a sense of what is appropriate to the specific situation
and by his own hypotheses.
2.3.4 Time allocation studies
An important aspect of any fuelwood survey concerns the amount of time spent in
tasks such as collecting wood, preparing charcoal, cooking and other energy-related
activities. It may be difficult to get precise information, because local people
perceive and evaluate "time" in a different way from the investigator, so there may be
a cultural misunderstanding in questioning them; there are important daily and seasonal
variations in time spent, and there is also variation in proportion of time spent by
different households, as well as by individuals within the same household. How can one
determine a meaningful "average" for time spent on fuel activities?
One way (which has been found successful when investigators have enough time) is
to make random spot observations on what community members are doing at particular times.
The investigator (and preferably some research associates) note basic details (when?
where? what? how? with whom? how long?) of what particular people are doing, over a long
enough period to generalize. The random spot checking technique has several benefits.
It eliminates the problem of representativeness of the data. Variability between sex,
age, and, depending on the criteria used in selecting the sample, wealth differences, is
indicated. The position and proportion of energy-related tasks within the daily work
rhythm can be ascertained. The latter is particularly important where intervention in
the local energy system is being considered. Finally, the survey can be combined with
other investigation in the community of such topics as nutrition, employment, or farm
The biggest problem with the random spot checking technique is that of data
over-collection, recalling one of our initial warnings on avoiding collection of surplus
data. Considerable time is often spent in non-energy-related tasks. For example, in
Erasmus' study (Erasmus 1955:324-328) only about 3 percent of the observations made of men
were related directly to energy tasks such as collecting or chopping wood or food
preparation, although such tasks took up at least 28 percent of the women's time
(including ironing). In some areas, where household members venture far to gather wood,
direct verification of their labour time may be impractical, and other tasks performed on
the fuelwood trip may go unrecorded. Nonetheless, random spot checks should be employed,
where possible, in studying fuelwood-related labour time allocation.
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Interviews are an integral part of social research. We shall postpone discussion
of the selection of interviewees (see the section on Sampling), with one important
exception. Puelwood collection, cooking, and other energy-related tasks are usually
gender-defined. In most cases, such as in cooking, women perform the work and are the
ones directly consuming the fuelwood. Moreover, women may have a greater knowledge of
consumption patterns than the men. Thus, women should be involved in most aspects of
fuelwood and household energy-use surveys. At the same time, strong sexual stratification
and customs may restrict access of interviewers, particularly males, to women. The
importance of sexual stratification should not be underestimated in surveys. In Muslim
areas, it will be essential for a woman to interview female household members, and even
in non-Muslim regions a woman interviewer often has better success in getting the women
to talk about their fuel tasks.
Where should the interview be conducted? In many cases the best place will be in
the respondent's house or compound, although for information on commercial activities,
an interview at the office or factory may help to get greater accuracy. Sometimes there
is no choice, and the interview has to be held in a public place, or on a farm, or walking
to do a chore.
In an interview, it is usual to have at least a set of questions to ask, and in
most circumstances we recommend an open-ended type of interview, which allows the
conversation to be directed to some extent by the respondent. Closed-form questionnaires,
consisting of entirely preselected questions,.are seldom the best approach, unless the
interviewer already has extensive, accurate and up-to-date knowledge of the community in
general and the energy system also. In general, a format that allows flexibility is best.
Having a schedule (a set of pre-arranged questions to ask) gives interviews some structure
and comparability. Having at least some open-ended questions on a questionarie allows
for flexibility and the inclusion of respondent perceptions.
Questionnaires and a completely open-ended-interview do not exclude each other,
because questionnaires should never be used alone. They should be combined with relatively
unstructured case-studies of specially selected households or villages (even a few will
be helpful). These case studies can serve (a) to develop preliminary hypotheses which help
to focus and define the limits of the survey, (b) to check on any initial tabulation and
analysis of results and (c) to follow up, and find explanations for, any puzzling or
unclear relationships or associations.
In both interviews and questionnaires, questions must be carefully phrased so that
they can be understood by the local people. Questions should follow in a logical order
so as to obtain the maximum amount of information, and to remind people of aspects on
which they might comment. Questions ought to fit with indigenous knowledge systems, and
with local perceptions. One way of ensuring this fit is by pre-testing the questions,
using key informants and others who can be critical. This should remove ambiguities and
also sharpen the focus of the questions.
It will often be impossible to conduct an interview in private with one person, as
friends, neighbours and passers-by are likely to listen and even join in the conversation.
Rather than resenting this as an interruption, a skilful interviewer can bring in the
other people and create an informal group interview, although in a strict random sample
the extra volunteered information should be excluded, so as not to skew the sample.
How does an audience affect the interview? Some people may become boastful, or
try to present their actions in a favourable way; others may be suspicious and silent
lest they give away valuable information. Obviously it depends on the specific culture
and situation, but an audience can often be used to good advantage.
Field investigators should not be surprised or discouraged if they initially
encounter an unwillingness among local people to be interviewed. "Why don't you see the
other people first? They are much better off than I and have better things to talk
about", may be a typical response to a question. Besides a general distrust of outsiders,
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people may be reluctant to speak about their landholdings or other assets. Such caution
in dealing with outsiders is obviously a justifiable mechanism of self-protection. Some
people may give answers designed to please, rather than reflecting a true state of
affairs, also as a self-protective device. Some cultures promote more suspicion than
others, and within cultures some individuals are likely to be more anxious than others,
about giving away potentially incriminating information. Other reasons for reluctance
to answer questions can be that people simply are not accustomed to being interviewed, or
people may be reluctant to be interviewed because they already had been saturated with
surveys and no effort had been made by previous researchers to convey the results or
significance of the surveys back to the people.
Even where people are not suffering from survey fatigue they may be reluctant to
be questioned because they view the interview as an imposition from outside forces. That
is, the interview is something in which they had little choice of participation, and
something from which they will receive few, if any, tangible benefits. In many cases
their perceptions are entirely correct. Interviewing people in itself need not imply
"local participation". Efforts should go in the planning and fact-finding stages towards
identifying and incorporating the desires, needs, and aspirations of community members
and social groups. And, importantly, local individuals and groups must be involved in
analyzing the collected information and in suggesting policy alternatives.
Many instances exist where people may be reluctant to talk, especially where
government regulations have curtailed free cutting and a black market in fuelwood exists.
In Nepal, where fuelwood is in critically short supply, people are reluctant to answer
questions on forest utilization (Donovan, 1979). Given the frequent reference to
illicit cutting or wood theft in areas as diverse as the Sudan, Kenya, India, the
Philippines, Mexico and Guatemala, the interviewer should recognize the problem of
dealing with sensitive matters. The interviewer and investigator should ensure the
confidentiality of the respondents.
Frequency of interviews depends upon the research design and the various time/cost
constraints often only one interview will be possible. Memory recall of respondents
depends upon the frequency, regularity, and significance of events. Twice weekly visits
have been recommended, since daily visits may seem like pestering, and gaps of more than
three or four days lead to increased recall errors. Seasonal differences should be
2.5 Group interviews
A short-cut method of rapidly gathering data is to interview groups rather than
individuals. This method presents problems of representativeness, since any group chosen
is unlikely to represent a true cross-section of the local population, though attempts
should be made to include individuals of different socio-economic status. The knowledge
and experience of several individuals may serve as checks on information given by each
There is nothing specialized about a group interview. In fact, any one who
interviews, i.e. asks questions, is likely to find that an impromptu group interview
situation develops. As many individual interviews are conducted in public places, and
also because of differing conceptions of public and private space, other community
members often stop, from curiosity, suspicion, desire to help, or officiousness, when
they see a stranger talking to one of their group. Instead of resenting what westerners
(or western-educated people) may see as an interruption, it is often advantageous to
accept and use the situation. This is especially so with fuel, where an individual alone
is unlikely to divulge "secret" information that could not be publicly disclosed, so that
the presence of many people should not be an obstacle to obtaining good information. But
if the interviewer is a forestry official, his police duties may have alienated him from
the villagers, who would then be cautious in answering questions. The response will in
large part be determined by existing cultural and historical factors. For example, in
parts of India, women (who have been hidden behind a partition) have been known to
interrupt an interview and contradict the man being interviewed, thus constituting an
unusual form of group interview.
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A group of people can be highly informative, in modifying, supplementing or even
contradicting individual statements. A group of Indian, Nigerian or Colombian peasants
(men and/or women) might engage in a conspiracy to deceive an outsider over enquiries
about fuelwood, but, because of their perceptions of the fuelwood crisis are at least as
likely to impress the visitor with their problems, perhaps even exaggerating the
situation. However, one thoughtful individual will often say "No we do not walk ten
kilometers to collect wood, it is only as far as from here to x," ensuring a degree of
reliability. Properly handled, group interviews can provide a useful check on reliability.
There are limitations as some individuals will be reluctant to speak on certain topics,
or they may wait for a senior or more powerful person to speak, then be unwilling to make
any open contradiction, even when privately disagreeing. This happens in all communities,
and provides a careful observer with a chance to observe patterns of hierarchy and
There are no universal rules for proper handling of a group interview, except to
say that it requires courtesy, and common sense, combined with two other qualities a
firm sense of what information is required, plus an appreciation of how flexibly the
conversation can be guided. One does not wish autocratically to. ut off at once a speaker
who wanders from the main topic, but who may be providing useful information, nor can one
afford to let the conversation be dominated by the village bore, who may drive away more
In this, as in other field situations, it is important not to raise false hopes,
but to make clear what specific changes are possible or likely, and what cannot be done.
One interviewer reported the result of a group interview of unemployed Nigerians in
Lagos; the men turned on the interviewer with hostility and said in effect, "If you
cannot offer us jobs, don't waste our time with stupid questions". Group interviews in
urban situations however, offer many advantages, as they are easy to set up because of
the population density.
Questionnaires are a popular method of data collection. The advantages of using a
questionnaire are well-known: data can be collected quickly on specific items; these data
can be easily transferred into forms allowing quantified and computerized analyses; and
data collection tasks can be delegated to less expensive field staff. Questionnaires also
compel the adoption of some "organized structure" upon data collection, but will be most
effective when used by someone who can support and test the questionnaire findings with
personal observations and insights and knowledge.
Using questionnaires is one means of recording data, but it is not the only means
and it is not adequate to not cover all the information required. As we said earlier,
no one method of information gathering is adequate for all purposes all should be
supplemented and checked.
However, several problems can arise when using a questionnaire. This is especially
true where a questionnaire is the primary means of collecting information. A questionnaire
can impose a rigid, preconceived idea of reality which may be inappropriate for the
particular situation. If field enumerators are not supervised properly, errors in
recording data can occur. Problems arise from respondents concealing, misreporting, or
misunderstanding questions. Recall errors often happen, especially with regard to
seasonal activities. The design and preparation of a questionnaire are extremely
important, as they will influence the type of information collected, in somewhat the
same way as the mesh-size of a fish-net determines the fish that are caught. Careful
thought, then, must be given to the selection and phrasing of particular questions.
Sometimes it is good to start with a general question, "what do you think about X?"
followed by increasingly specific questions. First, one must have enough basic knowledge
of the community to know which questions would be meaningful, and how, exactly, they
should be framed so as to minimize the possibility of creating ambiguity, embarrassment
or resentment. The purpose of questions is to discover what people know, not what they
do not know. Thus, the second stage should be a brief pre-testing, which allows for
refining and clarifying the questions so that they really do elicit, in precise form,
the information required.
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Third is the administration of the questionnaire, which as noted elsewhere -
requires constant supervision (see below), for even at this stage ambiguities are likely
to occur. One perceptive interviewer may point out that Question 14 could be interpreted
in two ways, for example, and a quick resolution of the problem could be communicated
quickly to other interviewers to ensure consistency and accuracy. Fourth, there is the
analysis of the results, to see what sort of picture emerges. And finally, there is a
consideration of whether any supplementary questions are desirable. Throughout all stages,
constant close supervision and cross-checking are necessary, combined with repeat
interviews, supplementary observations, and, most important, regular discussion with
interviewers. This both provides a check on the accuracy of the answers, and also
encourages the interviewers to be conscientious.
Although the questionnaire ought to cover all questions needed, it should not be
too elaborate nor too long; an hour is usually the maximum time period for any one
questionnaire to be administered. Most rural people, especially women, have many demands
on their time collecting firewood and water, cooking, washing, cleaning, looking after
children and cannot spend too much time in answering questions. Whether to use a closed
form (with itemized answers) or an open-ended form questionnaire depends on the
researcher's own needs and requirements. If the closed form is used, a space for comments
by the respondent and the interviewer should be included. In framing questions, there
are several simple alternatives such as: yes/no; checking a scale (of incidence, or
preference, or quantity) of 0-5. Some questions invite discursive answers, as in the
open-ended questionnaire; while others ask for a straightforward factual answer "how
many times each day are cooked meals prepared?". Depending on the nature of the survey,
a simple rapid survey might be the best.
Where computer facilities are available, it is advisable to frame and to code
questionnaires so that computer analysis is possible. When a large number of sample
households are involved, such as in a national or other macro-level survey, the use of
computers is almost essential. By computers, we refer not only to macro-computers but
also micro-computers, and even some calculators that can be programmed for regression
analysis may be appropriate. But the use of computers is by no means indispensable in
all surveys, particularly in more micro-level analyses, at least in the initial stages.
Manual analysis often can be done quickly and cheaply so that a preliminary idea of
results is obtained in a few days, instead of waiting at the mercy of the computer for
months. When computers are used, it is recommended and probably necessary that a member
of the computer staff be part of the research team.
In a perceptive article (Chambers, 1979; see also Chambers et al., 1979; Chambers,
1980) Robert Chambers has described many methodological shortcomings associated with
field research and project evaluations. These shortcomings are important to note because
they bias data collection and lead to an inaccurate analysis.
Field research tends to be conducted during the dry season. In part this is because
accessibility to many rural areas is easier during this season. Academic summer vacations
also coincide with this period of relative prosperity, after the crops have been harvested.
In contrast, the wet season, before the harvest, is generally a harsh time in rural areas.
Sickness and hunger prevail, particularly among the poorer households. The wet season
is also the worst period for fuel collection, with wet wood, slippery paths, more illness,
less time for collection and inadequate drying and storage facilities. Thus, research
often has a seasonal bias, with conditions appearing more prosperous than they are over
the balance of the year.
Researchers tend to visit the field for short periods, and seldom stray from the
roads. In this respect, the Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser have been mixed blessings
for development planning and research: while they do provide greater mobility, they offer
the impression of "roughing it in the bush," when in fact what can be visited on rural
roads is hardly representative of rural society. This is especially important if one is
concerned, as are most development agencies, with seeing that benefits accrue to poor
people, sometimes referred to as "the lower 40 percent". For these people often live in
remote localities, inaccessible except on foot. Few poor old widows live on a roadside;
the people most ill, children and elderly especially, are more likely to be suffering
inside some decrepit house rather than walking or sitting outside in any visible way.
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To summarize, there are a number of biases typically found in field research that
cause the worst rural poverty to go unperceived. Dry season, spatial, elite, male and
project and adopter biases operate so as to hide the poorest sectors of the population,
especially at the times they are the poorest. What emerges is an inaccurate portrayal
of rural society and rural property.
What can be done to overcome such biases? We have mentioned several promising
approaches, and here we summarize:
1. Go to the field well prepared, aware of what has been written, and of work
being done by social scientists, especially local people.
2. Cooperate with officials, but obtain unofficial views, too.
3. Travel alone or in small groups, not as part of a large official party.
4. Tell the people you meet about yourself, your aims. Share information.
5. Spend longer in the field, preferably overnight, when it is easier to
talk, and when peripheral people may appear.
6. Walk. Listen. Be silent when silence is appropriate.
7. Concentrate on one topic (fuelwood), but be aware of related topics.
8. Never rely on questionnaires alone. Always supplement with direct
observation and participant observation.
9. Find out when the stress periods of seasonal hunger and shortages occur.
We have not attempted to provide a thorough examination of all methods, and their
associated problems. Instead, we have been highly selective and, we hope, realistic,
in recognizing that most readers will not be able to arrange elaborate prolonged
investigations. So our emphasis is on what can be done quickly and on how to make the
best use of limited resources. Although the resources available, the study population
and the informational needs will differ for each fuel survey, we recommend that a
combination of methodologies be used. This is to ensure against the biases and
limitations that are inherent in any manner of data collection, so that a reasonably
accurate description can emerge.
3. SELECTING RESEARCH SITES AND STUDY PARTICIPANTS
This section is concerned with how to select a population to study. We first deal
with the concept of community how it is defined, the question of representativeness,
and procedures for selecting a research site. Next, we examine the basic unit of study
in most fuelwood surveys the household, while also mentioning other possible study units.
This section ends with a discussion of sampling procedures and their applicability to
We have assumed that there will be some choice of which community to study, but
we recognize that sometimes the researcher will be directed to do a study of a particular
problem. However, governments and development agencies are unlikely to pinpoint a
particular community or village, they will rather choose a wider area, so there may still
be some degree of choice.
3.1 Defining "Community"
The terms "community" and "village" connote socio-cultural, residential, and
administrative units with supposedly clearly demarcated boundaries, although in actuality
these boundaries are seldom clearly defined. Instead, subsumed under these terms is a
complex array of historical, spatial, social, economic, political and other relationships.
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When you travel by road, you see, of course, only those people whose homes can be
reached by road or jeep track, and you do not see hidden pockets of poverty that are
often scattered about at some distance from road or track. In looking at rural fuel
situations, it is vital to include the peripheries, and not to concentrate only on members
of the core elite who are likely to be the first people one meets.
The ideal way to obtain a comprehensive picture of rural energy use would be to
spend at least a full year in a community. This would allow the investigator to notice
important seasonal changes and how these affect patterns of labour allocation, social
relations, and energy usage. A long residence is also likely to lead to good rapport
with the community, and consequently to a better understanding of their ways and an
ability to ask the "right" questions. Unfortunately, many surveys and their researchers
will have little opportunity or resources to conduct such detailed investigations. There
are intermediate steps, though, in terms of research design and manner of field research.
On large-scale projects, such as a national energy survey, case studies of selected
communities, chosen according to appropriate environmental, economic, socio-cultural and
other variables, could be used to supplement and to round out the data gathered by
questionnaires and less intensive methods. Specific consideration should be given in all
projects to include data collection during the wet season, the pre-harvest period, and
times of peak agricultural labor demand.
For the field researcher, a recommended method is the "walk and listen" approach,
which can be adopted even on one-day field visits. Leave the vehicle, arranging to meet
it later, and walk a few hours away from the road, checking (by observing, and questioning -
an interpreter may be needed) on what one "knows". For example, conventional wisdom may
have it that people prefer certain species of trees for charcoal; that women go in groups
to gather firewood; that certain trees are never cut, because of a ritual prohibition
that women do not climb trees; that men never carry firewood; that land-owners do not
permit non-kinsmen to collect wood. All such statements may be true, or true in certain
circumstances, or subject to considerable reservations, or simply false. It is important
to distinguish between past norms of behaviour and past values, and present practice.
There may well be some confusion in the minds of local people about this. There is no
substitute for walking and listening to check on such universal generalisations, even,
or particularly, when these are confidently made by community members. In all societies
there is a difference between what people actually do, and what they say they do. People
tend, if asked about social behavior, to present an idealized picture of what ought to
happen. For example, in Ghana we were told that when a man died, his property was
inherited by his father's younger brother's son: an investigation of actual cases of
inheritance showed that only a minority followed the ideal pattern in practice.
The "walk and listen" approach is not without potential problems of bias. As
mentioned in the key informant section, the rural elite tend to be the people who come
forward, while the poor do not speak up. The researcher's own sense of politeness may
inhibit him from probing into the lives of the poor. Unless one has some immediate benefit
to offer, questioning the poorest people often appears to be an unwarranted and immoral
intrusion. Another problem is that of male bias, since researchers tend to be males and
their contact with women, especially poor rural women (who constitute a "deprived class
within a class"), is generally limited.
A final type of bias centers around projects and innovations. Researchers tend to
go or to be taken into a. place where "something is happening', where a project or
innovation seems to be having a favourable or the desired impact. The short-visiting
researcher may tend to meet only those individuals who are the users or adopters of
innovations, such as new stoves. This 'project' and adopter bias leads researchers to
neglect those areas, communities and people who have not benefitted but who might have
been affected in an indirect (or even direct) fashion by the project.' For example,
meeting with a landowner who had his cotton land converted to an eucalyptus plantation
might reveal little about how this affected his labour force.
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The terms also refer to a certain pattern or style of living typified by personalistic
relationships, social solidarity, and a local orientation. Impersonality, factionalism,
and a shrewd understanding of how to manipulate outside social forces have been found
to typify rural life.
The delineation of the community or village as a unit of study depends on several
local factors, including residential patterns, administrative divisions, land-use systems,
and local people's perceptions. Formal administrative boundaries by themselves can be
misleading indicators of community boundaries. For example, "census villages" in India
do not always correspond with residential clusters: "it is not uncommon for two
adjoining houses to belong to two different revenue villages".
3.2 The Representativeness of a Community
A major concern about any survey is how applicable the findings of one area or
community are to other areas and communities. To a large extent, the representativeness
of a community depends on how comparable its internal composition is with other communities.
Five key characteristics of a community should be identified in order to serve as a basis
for inter-community comparisons:
a. Population including the total number of people and sex and age distributions.
At a broad level this will indicate the aggregate local demand level for fuelwood
and other fuel resources.
b. People/land ratio with information on tenure relationships, types of agriculture,
land quality and use patterns, land distribution, and ecological zones. Household
access to trees and other fuel resources, as well as the condition of these
resources, will be among the important variables considered here.
c. Urban contact the nearness to urban centres, linkages with roads, the amount of
farm, fuel, and village output sold outside the community, and the amount of
employment community members find outside. A crucial variable to be considered
is the amount of wood and other fuel sources imported into or exported from the
d. Resource distribution how wealth and productive resources are distributed; thus,
the extent to which the community is economically and socially stratified. Once
again, household access to fuel resources (whether direct access to trees or its
ability to purchase fuelwood) would be considered.
e. Occupational structure the relative importance of agriculture, seasonal wage
labor; tenancy, nonfarm income and so on. Of particular importance for fuelwood
surveys is the scale of fuelwood sales and degree of wage labor involved in
fuelwood enterprises within the community.
These headings correspond in some degree to our "Topics on which to gather
information", presented at the beginning of this chapter. But these are selective,
and chosen to be relatively easy to identify and to aid an effective selection of villages.
Identification of these variables allows the investigator to see how typical the community
is in comparison to other communities. The question of typicality or representativeness
is meaningful if a good national survey exists, to allow for comparison. The variables
will also help in eliminating a village that clearly is unrepresentative e.g. by being
located close to a sugar-mill..
In choosing a community to study, it might be desirable to consider the degree
to which local people recognize that there is a fuel problem. Where there are clear
perceptions of a crisis, that warrants serious attention, the response to the survey is
likely to be good.
When available, village-level census data (if reliable, and up-to-date) lets the
investigator check beforehand how representative a community is in these variables.
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3.3 Choice of Community
Studies of rural communities rarely mention why and how the particular community
was chosen for study. When reasons are given, most choices are "purposive." For example,
Frederick Conway explains why he selected a particular site in Haiti:
Fonds Parisien, east of Croix-des-Bouquest in the Plaine du Cul du Sac, was
chosen as the field site because it had been an important center of charcoal
production and remains a center of charcoal exchange, because deforestation
as a result of fuelwood collection is advanced there, and because the
contractor had established rapport through previous research in the area.
The last factor was essential in obtaining reliable information in a brief
period of time (Conway, 1979:4).
Conway's quotation also demonstrates one of the advantages of having the investigator
restudy a community. Scarlett Epstein has given an account of how she was able to gather
remarkable amounts of information in a five-week visit to two south Indian villages that
she knew well from an earlier study (Epstein 1978:128).
Often, convenience and practical considerations are the most important factors
behind the selection of a community. Communities may be chosen on account of their
accessibility, or their congenial political and social climate. Reasons for deciding
on one community over another may reflect the investigator rather than the community, as
the former may prefer (though seldom is this admitted) a place that has "friendly"
inhabitants, or good access to medical facilities, or absence of mosquitoes, or a pleasing
view. Representativeness is also important: in his survey of energy use in rural
Southern Africa, Marc Best purposely chose three villages which represented different
"biophysical environments"(Best 1979:5). One of the villages was selected because of its
"remoteness" and its "traditionalness" (that is, Best considered the village to be not
"strongly affected by modernization", although it, like the other two, was "purposely
affected by the migrant labour system"). This purposive selection process has often
resulted in bias, since communities with good transportation, communications facilities,
and other amenities are generally more developed. According to Connell and Lipton
The relatively 'developed' state of accessible villages is likely to give
both those undertaking village surveys and those reading them an unduly
optimistic view of rural conditions.
Meanwhile, the worst poverty goes undetected or unobserved.
Some researchers have recommended using area sampling to select a community. This
involves randomly selecting a community from a large number of possible communities, each
possessing an equal chance of being selected (see the discussion of sampling in the next
section.) Factors such as location, environmental setting, farming type, and population
can be taken into account. But area sampling presents several problems, and is not
feasible unless a large sample in used, together with extensive knowledge of many villages.
Maps, aerial photography, and rapid surveys of a number of villages can help overcome the
lack of a sampling frame, combined with an interval sampling technique. Sometimes accurate
maps are unobtainable, and aerial photographs, if enlarged, can be effectively used as
maps. Infra-red photography can be useful in high lighting the vegetation. In some parts
of the world, good aerial photographic coverage exists, and is available; in others, either
little aerial photography has been done, or it is not accessible, perhaps "for reasons of
Overall, in selecting a community, the research should take intp account the key
variables mentioned (population; people/land; urban contact; resource distribution; and
occupational structure). Each variable must be regarded for its relevance to fuelwood,
as indicated above. "Key" is used in specific relation to fuel problems, not in a general
sense. The community, and adjoining communities, should be visited and looked at
carefully before research begins. Factors such as local historical and ecological
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variables, and location which would limit the applicability of inferences made from the
community to other areas, should be considered. Above all, the reasons for selecting a
particular community should be explicitly stated.
3.4 Households as the Basic Unit of Study
Most surveys take the household as their basic unit of study. In some cases a
household consists of a nuclear family a man and woman with their children. However,
it sometimes includes the extended family the grouping together of several nuclear
households; for example, a man with several wives and their children and/or his or his
wives' parents. There also may be "fragmented" households, such as an elderly or young
or divorced person who lives alone.
In general, a household may be considered as a grouping of people who share the
same cooking facilities. Even with such a broad definition of household, problems can
arise. One common problem is that households are constantly changing in composition,
and some members may be away for various time periods, from two days to two'years or
more. This is especially so when migrant labour is common. At the same time there may
be several visiting guests and relatives who increase demand for fuel. In many parts
of the Middle East, and also in other regions, belief in the influence of an Evil Eye
makes people reluctant to disclose exact numbers of children to strangers. In reckoning
per-capita fuel consumption of a household, one obviously needs to know which members
are physically present.
Household size and composition influences how production is organized and what
are relative consumption levels. In most households family labour is the most abundant
resource, so that the number of household members available for doing work is crucial.
Family size and the availability of energy resources are often correlated. This is
important for fuelwood; as the available forest stock diminishes and as the time
required for collecting fuel increases, so does the value increase of children as
gatherers. Information about household members' occupations helps in determining
household size. This would appear particularly necessary where seasonal wage labour
migrations are prevalent.
3.5 Other Socio-Cultural and Economic Units of Study
Besides the household, fuelwood surveys may concentrate on other socio-cultural
and economic units. John Briscoe (1979) for example, is concerned with analyzing his
studied households in terms of their socio-economic class. Several indices, such as
landholding size, sources and amount of income, house size and composition, ownership
of consumer goods, and so on, can be used in assigning households a relative wealth
position. Local people are often able to identify and to rank, with a keen precision,
relative household wealth positions (See Castro et al., 1981, for a discussion of
indicators of inequality).
Other possible social groupings include ethnic groups, caste divisions, religious
groups, charcoal producers, kinship groupings (such as lineages) and neighbourhood groups.
Relevant economic units include various shops, restaurants, industries, businesses,
and public institutions that consume fuelwood. Donovan (1979 and 1980), for example,
has studied small-scale industries in Nepal that consume fuelwood, Digernes (1977)
surveyed the shops, schools, and similar units which consume fuelwood in Bara, Sudan.
Surveys may also consider the contractors, dealers, and other entrepreneurs who are
involved in the production and marketing of fuelwood.
Researchers are rarely able to examine every possible unit of study in a given
population. It is necessary to choose a sub-set or sample of the population for
investigation. Thus, the issue for researchers is to decide what kind of sampling
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procedures to use. The manner of sample selection is critical because it defines how
representative of the population the chosen group will be and therefore the extent to
which findings from the study can be applied to the population as a whole.
Sampling methods are generally divided into two major types: non-probability and
probability sampling (Kearl, 1976:27). A non-probability sample means that the individual
units of study are selected either purposely (on the basis of some judgemental criteria)
or accidentally (on the basis of whomever is met or whatever is seen). Thus, a
non-probability sample is "unique", but not necessarily unrepresentative of the population.
That is, in a non-probability sample every unit of a population does not have an equal
chance of being selected. However, a sample can be purposively selected so that it
contains the general characteristics of a population (this will be discussed below in
A probability sample is based on the principle that every unit of a population
has an equal chance of being selected for study. This ensures, theoretically, that the
chosen units of study are representative of the population. Probability sampling involves
a random or systematic manner of selection, for example selection based on a table of
random numbers, or based on every nth unit, such as every tenth household.
Selecting the appropriate sampling procedure depends upon the particular situation,
and in all situations each manner of selection will have its own advantages and inherent
limitations. Although we will describe each sampling method as an exclusive type, in
practice they are often combined. Thus, a village may be selected purposively, on the
basis of environmental, economic and other variables, while the sample selected in the
village may be done randomly.
Non-probability sampling allows for considerable flexibility in selection, an
important consideration when the study universe is undefined or unclear, or when there
is a problem obtaining consent from those selected. But non-probability sampling has
several drawbacks. Any group may be easily under or over representated in the sample.
There is a tendency to select those individuals who are more articulate or approchable,
which generally means the wealthier or more educated community members. The actual basis
of selection may appear in retrospect as having been largely ad hoc even when specific
criteria were considered.
Probability sampling is generally seen as more "scientific" because it supposedly
will yield a sample that is precisely representative of the population. In practice,
though, there are limits to the use of probability sampling. A random or systematic
sample needs to be drawn from a defined universe, but frequently little census
information is known about the population and its geographical distribution is
undermined. Thus, a sampling frame has to be created. Sometimes maps and aerial
photographs, perhaps combined with an overflight of the area, can help to construct
a sampling frame. An area sample could be chosen, then one particular area randomly
selected on the basis of agro-environmental and socio-economic variables. Households in
the selected area can then be listed and a random or systematic sample chosen.
Not all researchers have had to start from scratch. Digernes used the local rates
lists (which show the assessments for public services) in Bara, Sudan, to construct a
stratified random sample. Fortunately, rates are based on such important socio-economic
variables as house size, location, number of rooms, building materials, number of latrines,
number of household members, and their socio-economic position. Digernes, who carried out
her study in 1976 and 1977, found that the latest list was from 1973, and it seemed
"complete and fully representative". She stratified the households into three groups
according to the levels of rates paid, selecting a 10 percent random sample from each
group. Twenty-five of the 162 sampled households had moved or been dissolved and were
excluded from the survey. No new households were added. A list of the twenty-five public
institutions and private businesses using charcoal was obtained from the local government,
and these were included in a fuelwood consumption survey (Digernes, 1977:57).
Another problem with probability sampling is that a high percentage of those
selected must consent to being studied. In most cases some households will not consent and
others will have to be chosen. Conversely, households that were not selected will want to
be studied. When possible in such cases the data ought to be collected, although it should
not be included with the sample.
All communities, even the poorest, have gradations of poverty and wealth.
Stratifying the sample is usually essential. This means dividing the population into
different strata or groups, based on income or other relevant variables. In probability
sampling, study units can be selected randomly or systematically from each strata. With
non-probability sampling, a quota might be allocated to each stratum, and case studies
might be selected from each for intensive study.
Once again, there is often a paucity of data on income, land ownership and other
critical variables necessary to stratify a sample. Proxy indicators of income, such as
housing type, condition and construction materials, and possession of consumer goods,
can be used to rank households. Perceptions of local people can also be used in
constructing a stratified sample. Hill asked several "key informants" to rank village
households according to their ability to cope with seasonal food shortages. A random
sample was taken of the resulting strata and several measures, including land and
capital equipment ownership, were used to test the perception. Hill found that the local
people were extremely accurate in their ranking, in that their subjective assessment
correlated closely with other objective measures (Hill, 1972:59).
3.7 Sample Size
Several factors need to be considered to determine the appropriate size of the
sample. Sample size is related to costs that can be afforded by the researchers. The
most critical consideration, though, is that the sample be large enough to be adequately
representative of the study population. Too small a sample can undermine the validity
of months of research.
In populations that are socio-economically homogenous, a small sample is sufficient
because describing one unit describes them all. But such populations are increasingly
rare, indeed it is doubtful if they were ever as prevalent as once believed. Some
analysts recommend that surveys include at least 10 percent of the households with the
proportion increasing with bigger, more heterogeneous communities (Connell and Lipton,
A final consideration is that sample size affects techniques and questions. For
example, a recent survey in Nigeria covered 11,000 households, so detailed techniques
were out of the question. Where a sample is very small, such as fewer than 10, they
more resemble case studies than a sample survey.
4. FIELD WORKERS AND STUDY LOGISTICS
Especially among the rural agricultural peoples with whom we are primarily
concerned, there will be little difficulty in finding suitable assistants, or "associates",
to use a more exact term. We consider some aspects of selection, training, supervision
Depending on the particular local circumstances, one obvious initial source of
likely recruits is among local unemployed high-school graduates, or high-school students -
or teachers who are on vacation. We have found that many have the appropriate level
of education: what is needed are adequate skills in reading, writing, record-keeping, and
interpretation of questions, together with qualities of reliability, honesty and ability
to ask questions in a polite, respectful yet firm manner. Those who have only primary
education are unlikely to manage the written records, nor will they be able to write
their own observations. On the other hand, people who have an advanced education are
often unsatisfactory because they regard the job as dull, routine and unglamorous; or
they complain constantly about the rigours of long walks along hot dusty paths, or about
the mosquitoes or fleas, or whatever is locally an irritant. This is not an
anti-intellectual argument, for university students, both undergraduates and post-graduates,
can play very important parts in village surveys; it is simply that they regard
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themselves as over-qualified for the rather routine and relatively low paying task of
gathering basic information.
Government departments are a good source for survey associates, especially such
departments as forestry and agriculture. But where forestry officials have
law-enforcement duties, they may have such negative images in the community that people
distrust them. In selecting associates, certain qualities are desirable some degree
of literacy, and sensitivity to people being interviewed, for example. Age, religion,
gender, ethnicity, and experience may all be relevant. Above all, people selected should
have a real interest in the survey and an understanding of its aims. It may be possible
to ask ten potential associates to do some simple interviews and observations for a day,
and to report verbally and in writing. One or two will emerge as "natural researchers"
in that they are interested, competent, sensitive and conscientious; in short, they have
the necessary "sociological imaginations".
High school students are not the only people to be considered. Given the poverty
in most communities, and the lack of non-farm opportunities, there are likely to be many
applicants. Sometimes there will be so many that the choice of individuals becomes
difficult, especially when, as often happens, locally important people put forward their
kinsfolk or dependents. In some cases this can lead to problems because applicants or
their "sponsors" are aligned with factions within the community.
One selection device, which worked quite well in Central Kenya, was to ask about
one hundred people to do a rapid four-day survey of their villages, suggesting that they
add certain types of supplementary information. On the basis of what they wrote, combined
with checking their forms for consistency, it was easy to select five or ten of the best,
who were invited to continue in helping with the study for one or two months. Who are
the "best"? It is easy to identify those who have a sociological imagination, which is
not necessarily correlated with a high level of formal education; it is also usually easy
to determine who has completed the questionnaires in an accurate and careful fashion.
Some fieldworkers "fudge" results, by deciding, for example, that it is not necessary to
walk five kilometers to see one household, preferring to guess from their general
knowledge. One soon develops a sense of when this is happening, because of
inconsistencies, irregular patterns, and erratic or unusual responses to questions.
A major aspect of selection is the inclusion of both men and women, as emphasised
above. Women should be incorporated because so many aspects of fuelwood, from collecting
to cooking, fall mainly within women's sphere of activities.
4.2 Training and Snpervision
We combine these two categories, as it is rarely possible to organize formal
training sessions, beyond perhaps one or two initial meetings when the project is
explained, and questions are answered, so supervision becomes doubly important.
Here are some guidelines:
(a) Arrange a definite time and place for supervisor and fieldworker to meet,
preferably at least once a week.
(b) Because of the prevailing difficulty of communication, if it proved impossible
to meet for example because of illness, poor road conditions, or vehicle
breakdown arrange a contingency "Plan B", making certain that there was some
way of communicating.
(c) Allow enough time for a thorough check of the fieldworkers' records, questioning
any unusual or dubious information, and praising any special contribution. This
is important, for supervision has both negative and positive goals. As well as
serving as a check against sloppy or inaccurate performance, it should be used
for positive reinforcement. Fieldworkers, like most people, respond well to
interest in their work and to appreciation of problems.
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(d) Engage, if numbers warrant, "assistant supervisors", so that it is possible
to check adequately on all workers. University students, where they are
available, have been found to be good in this role.
(e) Constantly and critically assess the survey instrument are the questions
providing the sort of information required?
(f) Eliminate problem questions, especially if they create too many negative
reactions to the interview situation.
Research associates should be made to feel that their job is not simply one of
mechanically recording responses on a questionnaire. Such an attitude leads the
fieldworker to emphasize the rapid collecting of data instead of accurately collecting
relevant data. They should fully understand the nature and importance of the survey,
and of their own role. Moreover, without any incentive or interest in the research,
the fieldworker has "little reason or incentive to make or record or induce a new line
of enquiry". Field staff should be paid adequately and they should be given full
credit for their contributions. Moreover, their perceptions and observations should
be constantly invited by the senior researcher. For these reasons, we recommend that
research should be regarded as a co-operative endeavor, with the professional
investigator, the associates, and the local people all participating in a common
enterprise. There are compelling ethical and practical reasons for adopting such an
approach, which gives proper credit to associates and villagers and which is likely to
lead to better (i.e. more comprehensive, more reflective of actual conditions) reports
than does the usual top-down survey. Where associates and villagers are literate it
is a good idea to ask them to read and comment on draft reports. If some are illerate,
it is easy to organize a "bush seminar" to present and discuss the major findings.
These can be regarding exercises.
Even though the fieldworkers will presumably be from the same region, and will
speak the local vernacular, they will often be working outside their home communities,
which results in two distinct sets of problems. First, they may come from a group or
faction or lineage that is not really acceptable, or which is not highly regarded, and
this should be investigated. Second, there are often problems of logistics of transport,
of housing, food, even of details of finding a bed, or a place to sleep, or a lamp, or
a table. We need not dwell on these, except to say that it is preferable to face these
potential problems squarely at the beginning, clearly stating what will and what will not
be provided, and also specifying precise duties and responsibilities of each fieldworker.
The prospects for misunderstanding, as in any relationship, are limitless'.
We conclude by reiterating three points that should be considered in planning fuel
surveys of any scope:
(1) using a combination of methods and procedures will probably give the most complete
and accurate portrait of energy use;
(2) be aware of local knowledge, expertise and perceptions; invite local participation
in the planning, implementation and analysis of the survey; and
(3) beware of the numerous biases dry season, elite, male, roadsides, project, etc. -
that can skew the description and analysis of local fuel situations.
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5. WHAT SORT OF INFORMATION?
A. SOCIAL 99
David Brokensha and Alfonso Peter Castro
1. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE AND PRODUCTION STRATEGIES 100
2. LAND TENURE 101
2.1 Government Land Tenure 101
2.2 Group Land Tenure 102
2.3 Private Land Tenure 103
2.4 Competing Land Uses 103
2.5 The "Poorest of the Poor" 104
3. LABOUR 105
3.1 Labour Allocation 105
3.2 Hired Labour 106
3.3 Distance and Frequency of Trips Time 106
3.4 The Social Context of Collection 107
3.5 Technology 107
3.6 Loads 108
4. OTHER ASPECTS OF PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF FUELWOOD 108
4.1 Transport 108
4.2 Marketing and Sales 109
4.2.1 Non-commercial and commercial production 109
4.2.2 Employment patterns 111
4.2.3 Seasonality, production and prices 111
4.2.4 Fuelwood prices and household socio-economical status 111
4.2.5 Sales 112
4.3 Storage 112
4.4 Reforestation 112
5. CONSUMPTION 113
5.1 Consumers 113
5.2 Household Uses 114
5.3 Conservation of Energy 114
5-1 Seasonal variability in charcoal production
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In this final paper we ask what sorts of information are relevant for wood fuel
surveys, and how this information can be obtained. Throughout this volume we have
stressed the variety of fuelwood situations, and the wide range of critical factors.
This paper, unlike the preceding ones, is written in three sections, each with a
different author. First, Brokensha and Castro emphasise the social anthropological
approach, mentioning the various social institutions, and also important ecological
aspects, that need to be taken into account. Next Reddy, with his broad multi-disciplinary
approach, stresses the various relationships dealing with the ecological context and the
resources needed. His section relates both to his own paper and also to deLucia's opening
paper, with its emphasis on a systems approach. Finally Morgan, a geographer, examines
the key factors involved in surveys of industrial, commercial and urban fuelwood problems.
By presenting these different but overlapping viewpoints, we hope both to indicate
the variety of possible approaches, and also to show that there are many areas of agreement,
no matter who does the survey nor where it is done.
David Brokensha and Alfonso Peter Castro
We consider the socio-economic context of fuel surveys, emphasising:
(i) wood fuels (fuelwood/and charcoal); crop residues; animal dung; other organic
(ii) both household and nonhousehold uses;
(iii) both commercial and noncommercial uses;
(iv) production, distribution, and consumption aspects.
We do not attempt to cover the whole socio-economic context, but concentrate on
those aspects most relevant for a fuel survey, with emphasis on land, and on labour,
followed by an overview of production, distribution, and consumption of fuelwood. For
convenience, we divide our comments into several sections, but we stress that all are
interrelated, and changes in one affect the others. We note one major distinction,
whether fuel is used domestically, or as a cash-crop, as this has far-reaching implications.
We emphasize wood fuelwood and charcoal but in some areas other sources of fuel
are important cow dung in india, llama dung and woody roots in Peru, crop residues in
the Sahel. There are clear regional differences; in Africa, for example, dung and
brushwood are generally used less intensively than in India. Sorghum stalks are a
major fuel source for two-thirds of Nigeria. In Ilorin market, guinea-corn stalks
(which are fibrous and burn well) are sold as a preferred fuel, even when fuelwood is
available, obviously expressing a cultural preference. Seasonality is very important,
as crop residues are only available for a short period; with a longer season, up to six
months in the drier areas of the Sahel. Where alternate biomass sources exist, they
should be examined systematically, along the lines proposed. In addition, care should
be taken to consider the opportunity costs of using these items as fuel. For example,
the dung might have been used as fertilizer for crops: what is the net loss involved?
Crop residues like sorghum stalks are sometimes used as makeshift contour ridges in fields -
or as livestock feed. Again, what is the extent of the loss? The complex ramifications
of using organic residues as fuel must be studied.
The eventual aim of fuelwood surveys is not just to collect information, but to
suggest specific lines of action that can improve people's lives. We need first to show
the importance of prevailing administrative and legislative policies and practices which
set limits for what will be practical. National or sector development policies are vital
aspects of any action. The problem is where to draw the lines of what is relevant,
because of the wide range of sectors whose policy is significant for any fuelwood programs.
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These include forestry, agriculture, rural development, land tenure and land reform,
energy and resettlement, to name only the main ones. A knowledge of the broad aims of
these sectors (i.e. the ministries and departments that are responsible for them) is
required as well as an awareness of relative expenditures, which indicate some order of
We should also go beyond the national level and consider international policy, as
shown by the specific interests of F.A.O., World Bank and other development agencies. And
we should also look at lower levels policies and actions at regional and district levels -
for these too will affect planned changes.
It is also crucial to be aware of local values and attitudes and of the general
social background. We emphasize the importance of understanding and using indigenous
knowledge systems in any proposed development. This is particularly necessary in regard
to two promising avenues for action reforestation and conservation of energy for
both involve changes, sometimes substantial, in people's behaviour. A carefully
integrated plan integrated with local values, and worked out in conjunction with the
local people has a better chance of success than has one imposed from above.
Popular participation is a currently fashionable phrase in development circles,
yet it is often not clearly defined and therefore difficult to implement. Fortunately,
the fuelwood arena is one where participation often has a reasonable chance of success,
and local people can and should be involved.in initial discussions, in implementation,
and in monitoring and evaluation. But local support of forestry programs is not always
forthcoming. In part this is because community members may-place forests and fuel
requirements behind other development needs such as agriculture, water, roads, schools
and sanitary facilities. Thus, the priorities and perceived needs of the forester and
energy planner may not be the same as those of the local community.
Another factor that inhibits local participation in forestry programs, particularly
those based on "community participation," is a factionalism and stratification (Noronha,
1980). There may be no shared interests in a particular community. Instead, there may
be numerous competing political functions based on class, ethnic, religious or other
alignments. Moreover, there may be no tradition of cooperation regarding growing or
harvesting trees, or fuel supply needs, yet planners sometimes expect cooperative forms
of organization to take root overnight.
Planners should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of using cooperative (or
community) versus individual forms of organization in forestry programs. In some cases
working through individual landowners may lead to a more successful program of tree
planting than relying on.a disorganized and undemocratic cooperative. At the same time,
planners must also carefully evaluate their goals a forestry program based on
individuals and entrepreneurs may not benefit, and may well be detrimental to the poor.
1. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE AND PRODUCTION STRATEGIES
S Until recently, most development officials and researchers believed that the
peasant had nothing to teach and everything to learn. To a large extent, this attitude
still prevails in many circles. Many studies have shown, however, that local people
often possess considerable knowledge about resources and their effective management and
utilization. This knowledge, the cumulation of years of experience, is a crucial
component of local fuel systems, and therefore constitutes an important area of knowledge
that should be acquired by responsible officials (see Brokensha et al., 1978; Lipton,
There are usually clear local preferences for specific firewood species and parts
of trees. These preferences are based on burning qualities, availability of wood,
intended use and also on prevailing conversion technology. In general, the most desired
species are those that are hard, dry rapidly, ignite easily, burn strongly but are easily
controllable, emit little smoke, and do not give food an unpleasant taste. For example,
the Tarahumara of Mexico say that "oak burns hot and clear, without smoke; pine is used
- 101 -
only for kindling; cedar gives a hot fire but throws off dangerous sparks." Studies in
India suggest that dry twigs and branches are commonly used because they are often all
that is available. In most parts of the world there have been recent dramatic shifts in
preferences as preferred species disappear or become very scarce. The factor of
accessibility is crucial, as, to quote a north-of-England folk saying, "if thee cannot
get what thee like, thee mun (must) like what thee get."
2. LARD TENURE
A grasp of land tenure relationships is essential for understanding the regulation
of access to trees and other fuel resources. (We use "land tenure" as a convenient term,
though we are really discussing rights over land use). Land tenure includes legal and
customary relationships between individuals and groups, involving rights in land: rights
to build houses, to plant trees and permanent crops, to cultivate annual crops, to graze
cattle, or to collect medicinal herbs or building material and firewood. Sometimes
it is useful to ask local people to draw simple maps showing their fuelwood areas, as
this can help to show their own perceptions. In many parts of the world, older types
of communal land rights are being replaced by individual title, as part of a so-called
We distinguish three general types of land tenure: government, group, and private
land tenure. Usually all three are found, either side by side or in combination.
Furthermore, tenure relations change over time.
In all types of tenure, conflicts over land use and land tenure do occur. Such
conflicts obviously affect the collection of fuelwood, so it will be necessary to find
out, as discreetly as possible, who is involved, which lands are concerned and with what
consequences. With group lands, conflict may arise from questions of who has which
rights to gather wood, while with individual tenure there are often quarrels and
litigation over the title itself.
2.1 Government Land Tenure
In government tenure, rights to land and its products are vested in the
nation-state and its public agencies and bodies. The amount of forest lands directly
controlled by central governments varies considerably. In Nigeria, the state reportedly
holds only 2 percent of the total land area. The Republic of Korea's government owns
nearly 20 percent of the forest lands. In China, natural forests and many forest
plantations are controlled by communes. In many countries, such as Mexico, the actual
structure of forest ownership (including both public and private lands) is not known
Land ownership is not always a precise indicator of forest land control. Central
governments may nominally own forest resources, but delegate control to local public
authorities. For instance, local governing bodies, the panchayats, control forest lands
in Nepal although the national government is the official owner. Control over federal
forest lands in Mexico is spread among different organizations, including decentralized
federal and state government agencies, government companies, private companies with
permits and concessions, local land reform communities (e os), and other public and
Besides direct ownership of forest lands, central governments may control fuelwood
resources through land use regulations. This control has occurred in some nations as a
response to deforestation and fuelwood shortages. For example, the Ecuadorian government
has legislated provision for owners of forest land to reforest and conserve their forests.
Land owners are allowed three options: carrying out afforestation and maintenance
themselves at their own expense; having the Ministry of Development pay for the work in
exchange for donating 70 percent of the wood production to the National Forestry Service;
relinquishing ownership of the forest areas to local communities, which will control and
maintain the forests. The last option is said to be the government's preferred method,
although very little has been done in this way, and often co-operative groups that control
land are in a confused state.
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How government tenure affects access to fuelwood at the local level varies.
Collection of fuelwood on government forest lands may be prohibited. People who live
near forest reserves in Tanzania are allowed to collect dead or fallen wood left behind
by a small number of licensed timber cutters. In Mexico and the Sudan, fees or taxes
are collected on each load of sold wood. In Bara, Sudan, forestry officials admitted
that much cutting goes on without permission on government land. "They said that their
weak control over the activities carried out is due to lack of personnel and transport
facilities" (Digernes,1977:53)1 this situation also occurs in other countries. Thus,
access to fuelwood resources on government land depends upon the specific country's
policies and its ability to enforce them.
In enquiring into government control, a survey should concentrate on certain topics.
First, what restrictions are there on access, how do local people perceive these
regulations, and have they led to any friction or problems between forest service and
local people? If this has led to reluctance or opposition to engage in forest conversation
or reforestation, then the survey should ask "what can be done?" This question should be
asked of a wide range of local residents, as well as officials.
Aside from the central government, local governing bodies such as village councils
may regulate access to public forest lands. This local control has sometimes developed
over long periods as a means of conserving important forest stock. In other cases, it
has arisen as a local-level response to fuelwood shortages. Community control of forest
lands is discussed further in the next section.
We need to ask how people perceive trees and forests, recognizing that there is
a wide spectrum, including the Iban of Borneo who are described as "having an insatiable
craving for virgin land," and for whom treefelling is a major measure of manhood. At
the other extreme are people such as the Kikuyu (Kenya) or the Chaga (Tanzania) who
treated large trees with reverence, even appeasing the spirit of the tree when it was
cut down. At Mwanza (Tanzania), and in the Sahel too, local farmers cut down trees
because they serve as resting places for the seed-eating birds. When do people perceive
of forests as for their benefit and why?
2.2 Group Land Tenure
Rural communities in almost all developing nations enjoyed from ancient time certain
customary privileges on nearby forest lands. Although this is sometimes called "communal
tenure", the term "group land tenure" is preferable. This is because access to land may
be based on criteria other than community membership, such as common descent or ethnic
affiliation. For example, in many tropical African societies wood is collected solely
from land which a lineage or other descent group controls, or else from the household's
own "bush farm." Moreover, communal tenure may imply "collective" production, a
condition rarely present in local-level societies.
Group land tenure differs from modern western forms of land-holding in that people
who had rights in land usually had rights in use, which were clearly defined, but they
had no right to sell the land. There were exceptions, but in general land could not be
alienated. When people had limited rights of use, it was often stated that they might
cultivate and harvest annual crops, but they were not allowed to plant permanent crops
like trees. This is important as it could be a major barrier to tree planting.
Thus, all members of the community, ethnic group, lineage, or other supra-household
land-owning entities were allowed to collect fuelwood for their own use. Group members
freely gathered or cut as much wood as they need; sometimes certain species of trees were
placed in a special category, and people were not allowed to cut them. Forest lands were
sometimes found on hillsides or scrub and thorn forests which were unsuitable for
farming. In some cases, land was held in reserve for future generations.
Although one study found that 93 percent of all land in Malawi is still under the
control of village headmen and chiefs, in most areas group tenure is being, or already
is, replaced by private land ownership though private tenure and group tenure may co-exist.
What often occurs is that farm and other intensively used land will become privately
owned, but forests and waste lands will remain under group tenure. In these cases, such
as in Guatemala, community members retain access to the group's forest land, though it
is not necessarily on a strictly egalitarian basis those persons in power may have
readier access to the forests than do marginal persons. The group-held forest land
becomes an especially important resource to the poor and landless, and every township,
village or settlement that possessed group-held forest was responsible for supervising
its use, and for seeing that laws were enforced. Because the local people were
directly involved, they were more effective in preventing encroachment, or illegal
cutting, than forest guards usually are. Those people who depend on the forest for
their income, as woodcutters or carpenters, are especially vigilant in preventing forest
Where socio-economic differences are pronounced or where political factionalism
is intense, control over group-held forests may become the bone of contention among
opposed groups. In his community study of Tepoztlan, Mexico, Oscar Lewis states that
control over village forest resources led to intense friction between local political
factions. One group, comprised of poorer peasanta and ex-Zapatistas (revolutionaries)
protested about the depletion of the forests. The other group, led by the sons of the
ex-caciques (wealthy political leaders), wished for expanded commercial production of
firewood and charcoal (Lewis, 1951:236-238).
Forest depletion and fuelwood scarcity may cause changes in group land tenure,
as well as in farming and settlement patterns. For example, firewood scarcity, along
with population pressures and poverty, provoked families in Chamula, Mexico, to migrate
to new forest areas, leading to competition for land and to quarrels with neighboring
communities (Pozas, 1959)-
2.3 Private Land Tenure
With private tenure, land is considered a commodity. The individual is free to
sell, to buy, and to accumulate land. Private land tenure implies a monopoly, under
which a certain person or group has absolute rights over land, and can exclude others.
Bonds of friendship, kinship, and customary relationships between landed and landless
may "soften" or "relax" this exclusivity to land. For instance, near Ibadan, Nigeria,
wood can be taken from a neighbour's farm. However, with increased commercialization
land tends to become stripped of social obligations, and treated as any other commodity.
When group land tenure changes to individual tenure, it may encourage an increased
planting of trees, as the owners feel more secure and can afford to do long-range planning,
as happened in Kenya. Studies have shown that once farmers get individual title to their
land, they tend to set aside a portion of their land for planting with eucalyptus,
Grevillea robusta or other quick-growing useful species.
Under private tenure, the question of land ownership distribution becomes crucial.
Many areas are characterized by patterns of land concentration. That is, land and fuel
ownership are concentrated among a few individuals or families.
2.4 Competing Land Uses
Fuelwood systems must be seen in relationship to existing patterns of land use.
Areas of low population density and extensive land use have tended to be most appropriate
for traditional community forestry systems. Such conditions are increasingly
disappearing because of rapid population growth and the expansion of commercial
agriculture and forestry.
Researchers should be aware of any changes in local infrastructure, technology, or
residential patterns that could alter current land use patterns. The construction of
roads and bridges opens up areas to settlement and increases access to markets. The
introduction of tractors may lead to the clearing of trees from fields. Power saws make
the cutting of trees easier and faster. Increases of population and the colonization of
new lands presents greater pressure on forests.
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2.5 The "Poorest of the Poor": The Land Poor and Landless; Rural Women; the
Elderly and Sick
In a recent paper Marilyn Hoskins (1979:5) has written that, "Enthusiastic
participation in any project only comes from those who believe they have something at
stake and who are committed to the project's success." While Hoskins was referring
to one particular (and very important) disadvantaged sector of rural society women -
her statement could easily cover the position of others, including the land poor, the
landless, tenants, and the sick all of whom lack power. Since the 1970s, international
development agencies have declared their concern for the "poorest of the poor." It is
these groups whom we know least about, especially in regards to their access to fuel
supplies. Although so far we have been discussing mainly those people who have some
land rights, in many parts of the world a rapidly growing proportion of the people has
no formal rights in land. Moreover, another large proportion of the population has
rights to land, though the amount held is insufficient to meet household subsistence
demands. Sometimes the land poor or landless are tenants or sharecroppers, having
access to another's land in exchange for rent or other services. Although a tenant
may have some security of tenure through customary or legal relationships, implied in
tenancy is that the landowner may sometime reclaim direct use rights over the land. In
some areas where farming has recently become capitalized and commercialized, as in the
"green revolution" areas of Asia, the eviction of tenants has occurred.
Besides 'landless,' 'land poor,' and 'tenant,' there are other terms associated
with these groups: a semi or full proletariat and 'penny capitalists.' The former
terms related that these sectors comprised the seasonal or year-round wage labour force
for farms, plantations, public work projects, mines, factories and other enterprises.
The latter term points out that many of the rural poor engage in small-scale, often
ambulatory, commerce, and other non-farm occupational specializations.
Besides direct market purchase, access to wood fuel supplies is often obtained
through public or community lands. Although these lands may nominally be held by the
'community,' a community of interest is frequently absent and competition and conflict
between different village factions and users for control of this land is intense.
Another common means of access to fuel supplies is through social relationships based
on kinship, patronage or some other tie. Those without formal access to land may have
access through wealthier relatives or through patrons. A tenant or wage-worker may be
allowed access to fuel supplies by the landowner, but such access continues only as long
as they are associated with the owner.' Finally, access to fuel supplies may be
obtained through the customary rights of the poor to gather crop residues, dung or other
fuel sources, although such rights are lost as these become considered valued resources.
Another forestry-related issue associated with the landless and land poor is that
they engage in charcoal-making and wood fuel sales as part- or full-time specializations.
Driven by the need for survival and the lack of alternative means of livelihood, these
desperate people become prime agents of deforestation. Simply denying these people legal
access to forests is an insufficient solution to this problem because it invites poaching
and the general non-cooperation of the local people in any forestry efforts. A
difficult yet more realistic solution is to create alternative means of livelihood for
the rural poor. Moreover, the use of trees as an income source and the needs of forestry
programs can be integrated so that the rural poor receive some direct economic benefit
from any afforestation or conservation project.
The position of poor rural women in local fuelwood systems deserves careful
attention. Recognition is usually given to several important aspects of women's
involvement such as cooking and wood collection, but other activities and sources of
involvement remain largely unexplored. Little attention has focused on how women obtain
access to trees. Land rights are often assumed to be held by the 'head of household' -
the adult male yet this simplifies the complex arrangements that exist at the local
level. The impact of divorce, separation and widowhood on access to fuel supplies is only
beginning to be considered. Women's expertise in the use of forest products has seldom
been taken into account. How forestry programs affect women's economic activities is also
in further need of investigation.
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The elderly and the sick are frequently overlooked in development projects, and
forestry programs seem no exception. Once again, little investigation of their
participation in local situations has taken place. Consideration of their plight
underscores the need of researchers to be aware of those forms of poverty that tend
to be hidden on the surface. Moreover, it draws attention to the fact that social
relations must be seen in a wider framework than individual nuclear households. Ma0ny
times children are given the responsibility of supplying fuel for an elderly or sick
individual who may or may not be a relative and a resident of the household. This use
of children, as well as the reliance of the elderly or sick on their grown-up sons and
daughters for care, illustrates the value of offspring to parents as a form of old age
and sickness insurance.
3.1 Labour Allocation
The collection of fuel accounts for a significant proportion of household labour.
Other activities agricultural tasks, collecting water, domestic duties, child-care -
are also-time consuming, and the investigator should have a general idea of the relative
amount of time that each task takes. This is important, because if people start to
spend more time collecting fuel, then they will have less time for other tasks. We need
to know how this affects agricultural production, nutrition and health, and general well
being. We should know, for example, if special trips have to be made for firewood,
when in earlier days the people could combine this with routine agricultural activities.
Here, as elsewhere, both the behaviour and the perceptions of the people should be noted.
If any changes or innovations are proposed, we must first know how local people perceive
the problem, then build on their perceptions.
Data should be collected on who gathers or harvests fuelwood, and on who uses it.
Investigators should consider whether firewood gathering is a gender or age defined
task within the household. For instance, women are mostly responsible for firewood
collection in Africa. Women were said to begin collecting wood as young girls, and
continue until they are physically unable to do so. Older women's tasks are sometimes
lightened by daughters or daughters-in-law.
Sometimes boys and men are assigned the task of gathering fuelwood. For example,
in Jamaica, getting wood is a boy's work, and boys ordinarily gathered firewood in
Chan Kom, Mexico. Men will quit work early at their farm plots in Guatemala to collect
wood, with men and boys sometimes gathering wood together.
Collecting wood is often the responsibility of both men and women, and young and
old. In Uchumarca, Peru, Stephen Brush noticed that:
Many people pick up firewood as a normal part of any excursion outside of
the village, and it is common to see men, women, and children dragging or
carrying small bundles of firewood (Brush, 1977:77).
In many cases the distance required for gathering wood will determine who gathers
it. "Women tend to stay closer to the village, while men will range farther in search
for the best wood." In the Sudan, women gathered wood near the home, but men sought it
if the supply was more than four km. away.
Gender and age preference in wood collection tasks are never absolute social
facts. As fuelwood supplies diminish, so do sex and age rules adapt to meet changing
needs. Moreover, individuals must adapt to their own personal and household
circumstances. For instance, in Mbere, Kenya, when wives are absent or sick, then men
must collect wood themselves. Unless they have kinfolk, willing neighbours, or the
ability to pay, the elderly and the handicapped must gather fuelwood themselves. When
shortages begin, these latter two groups are often the most hard-hit, This is especially
true because people who gather for them for no recompense when wood is plentiful may
become more reluctant to help as greater distances are involved, and as more time must
be spent. .,
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In most areas, fuelwood scarcity has imposed extra burdens on women because
collecting wood takes a longer time, and they still have all their other tasks to do.
Therefore there should be a systematic examination of ways in which women's lives have
3.2 Hired Labour
As fuelwood becomes a commodity, production relations also change, many sellers
collecting and transporting the wood themselves. However, in some instances fuelwood
collectors may actually be hired workers, and several variations are found. For example,
in Cheran, Mexico, wealthy widows without grown sons pay others to collect firewood.
Wealthy households in Bara, Sudan, employ servants to gather wood for them now that
wood is in short supply while poorer households must collect it themselves.
Where fuelwood production comes under control of larger-scale entrepreneurs, wage
labour relationships become more established. In La Abarca, Chile, lorry owners acquired
woodyards and during the winter months they hired "idle tenants" from nearby estates to
chop wood. Because the winter is the agricultural off-season, work was scarce, so
wood-choppers for these firewood contractors tended to be badly paid. There are other
accounts of entrepreneurs who contract or who simply sell on the market, using gangs
of hired men. Unfortunately, little information is provided on labour conditions and
terms for these workers.
With commercialization of fuelwood, there soon appears a wide range of people
who have vested interests in the trade that builds up, because their livelihood depends
on it. These include the people who collect and transport fuelwood, as well as those
involved in distribution and selling, perhaps at distant towns. These vested interests
might actively try to prevent any changes in fuelwood supply, such as would result if
government agencies or private people established fuelwood plantations. This important
aspect of hired labour warrants investigation. In the case of illegal exploitation, as
in tribal areas of India, this is a means by which contractors pass the rise of
penalties (fines, imprisonment) to the workers.
3.3 Distance and Frequency of Trips Time
We are concerned with time; how much time is spent collecting fuel by different
households. People may not have accurate ideas of time, so, to determine time spent,
we need to know the location of the source, so as to calculate distance, and also to
know the number of trips made each week. This is clearly related to transport, as people
who can use a bicycle, barrow, sledge, pack-animal cart or truck, obviously have an
advantage over those who must carry fuel on their own backs. Again, enquiries should be
made on changes in time spent on this task. Serious considerations must be given to
methods of acquiring this information. For example, there will probably be seasonal and
daily variations in distance, time, and especially in the frequency of trips. The
concept of "distance" presents a special problem. Also, tasks may be multi-purpose
rather than single-purpose. That is, a variety of labour activities (gathering herbs
and other plants, visiting neighbours, checking on fields or herds, returning from farm
work) may be carried out on the same trip when firewood is gathered. This can be
determined rather easily.
Simple interviewing of local people about distance, time and frequency of trips
for fuelwood collection may lead to an inaccurate assessment of the local situation.
Random spot checks (see the Observation section) are recommended. If there is enough
time, these should cover seasonal as well as daily variations. Some sort of stratified
sample, based on differential modes of transportation, may be useful in showing distance
and time requirements of different households. Accompanying people on fuelwood collecting
trips a real, if arduous, form of participant observation can help in determining
whether a variety of tasks is performed directly or indirectly; it can help in many other
ways such as acquiring some sort of "feel" for the rhythms, group dynamics and burdens of
this endless, time-consuming task of collecting fuelwood.
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Information should be gathered on the extent to which local people consider
these trips as burdens, and whether they believe the amount of time and labour required
to collect wood has changed.
3.4 The Social Context of Collection
Obviously, much drudgery is involved in collecting fuelwood, as in collecting
water, and other routine tasks. Time must be spent and heavy loads collected and carried
home. As wood supplies diminish, the drudgery and hardships increase. Furthermore,
fuelwood collecting may be a task which is a particularly heavy burden on certain groups
such as women, children, the elderly, the handicapped and the poor.
At the same time, ethnographic reports and other accounts of community life show
that in many instances fuelwood collection is an important social activity. Mary
Elmendorf, commenting on the Mayan woman of Chan Kom, Mexico, writes:
I had never really understood why most of the women did not seem to mind going
to the wood, the immense loads of firewood they brought back looked painful to
carry on their tumpline, their foreheads straining against the rope-. . A
Mayan friend . told me later that when women go to lenas (gather wood) it
is an outing a group experience. .'The women love it,' she said. 'They are
free in the woods.' In addition to collecting wood, they gather all the
different kinds of flowers, plants, and roots (Elmendorf, 1976:28-29).
Other observers report that in some areas fuelwood collection is regarded as a
pleasant social activity, a welcome break in the routine, when women can chat with their
As mentioned earlier, not everywhere and not everyone has considered gathering
wood to be an enjoyable task. Many of the accounts which described it so were written
before the onset of serious fuelwood shortages. One report concludes that:
...it is unlikely that firewood collection today provides much satisfaction.
Nearly all collectors face long journeys, restrictive laws, selfish landlords,
dwindling forests and higher prices, and fuelwood is simply one of life's
major sources of anxiety for many collectors (USAID 1980:25).
But fuelwood gathering remains an important social activity in many areas.
Conversation, passing gossip, joking, and play by children helps to pass the time and
reduces the drudgery of the work.
Attention should be given to the technology used, since it influences several
aspects of production, distribution, and consumption. Technology limits the range of
wood sizes that can be processed and determines which species can be used. For example,
hand tools, including axes, hooks on the end of poles, long knives, and machetes, that
are most frequently used in collecting fuelwood, can seldom fell and break up large
trees. Because wood cannot readily be reduced to small sizes the adoption of new stoves
may be restrained. Chain saws, which are presently being introduced in some areas,
can lead to accelerated cutting.
A significant part of technology relates to transport what hand-drawn or
animal-drawn carts are available, are pack animals or bicycles used? What are the
possibilities of intermediate technology type innovations, which could extend the range
of wood gathering, and cut down on time?
Also, conversion technology is important. What sorts of stoves and ovens are in
use? Much labour may be spent in cutting and preparing'wood for stoves, and some stoves
require tiny pieces of wood that are difficult to cut.
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Another aspect of technology is the manner in which trees are "killed," whether
by ring-girdling, burning the base or even applying chemicals, and how long trees are
left before being felled.
Finally, technology cannot be understood without enquiring into indigenous knowledge
We need to note what people know/believe about trees and their uses.
The technology used by cutters and gatherers can be easily ascertained through
observation. It would also be useful to make a systematic comparison of the technology
utilized by different types of producers, such as households, small-scale commercial
operations and larger enterprises.
Technical problems associated with measuring the amount of wood and energy
produced and consumed in fuelwood usage are dealt within Annex III. In this section we
discuss some general aspects that investigators may encounter in the field.
Household fuels are difficult to measure exactly, because villagers do not use
scales. They might indicate amounts by.referring to a head-load, cart-load, stack or
sack (for charcoal), all of which vary considerably. Some people may increase confusion
by estimating in kilograms or other international units, without a precise idea of the
weight. Wood volume itself will vary according to the particular species, moisture
content, the size and shape of. branches or logs, and the proportion of twigs and leaves
included. Volume-to-weight ratios also vary, according to area or season. Various sized
pieces of wood defy traditional forestry appraisal techniques.
4. OTHER ASPECTS OF PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF FUELWOOD
In this section we pay particular attention to the socio-economic, rather than
to the technical, aspects, and again we have been selective, choosing some important
Attention should be given to the infrastructure and the various modes of
transporting fuelwood from where it is produced to its consumption or marketing site.
Studies indicate that a wide range of transport is used: for instance, a study in
Ougadougou, Upper Volta, found that trucks, station wagons, ox carts, mules, bicycles,
and pedestrians brought firewood into market. Buses and similar modes of public transport
are often used in Guatemala. Very often the vehicles will have mixed loads, such as
fuelwood, agricultural produce and livestock, which complicates the measurement.
Similarly, the infrastructure used in transporting fuelwood supplies is highly varied.
All-weather, well maintained tarmac roads or dirt paths which are inaccessible in wet
weather may be used in carrying supplies to market.
The kind of transport available, along with other factors, can have an important
impact on the marketing and production structure. Transport networks influence the spatial
range of fuelwood markets, determining whether a community has access to commercial
supplies for sale or purchase. The construction of rural feeder or access roads can open
up new areas of production, allow greater volume to be transported, or make available new
Forest resources may be in areas where no bus service or even roads exist, so
that producers will have to take their loads to the marketing sites. Ownership of, or
access to, transportation facilities influences entrepreneurial opportunities and the
internal structure of fuelwood production and marketing. With the use of trucks, the
carrying of the loads of several wood cutters is possible, and middlemen become an
important aspect of the distribution system.
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In many areas, enterprising farmers take advantage of fuelwood demand, and of
improved communication, to make some income from selling firewood or charcoal. Along
many roads, it is a common sight to see people at roadsides, waiting either for a
pre-arranged contractor, or for any passing lorry driver who might buy the fuelwood.
In some cases a sort of vertical integration happens. In Chile, lorry owners were
able to use woodyards in the winter months, and to employ labourers who would otherwise
be idle, in chopping wood. The lorry owners proceeded to sell this chopped wood to bakeries
and consumers in urban areas.
4.2 Marketing and Sales
4.2.1 Noncommercial and commercial production:
Fuelwood is often referred to as a "noncommercial" fuel, although charcoal is
almost always a commercial fuel. This is because many, if not most, rural households
collect it for their own consumption. This is much easier when people have their own
farms, or have clear rights to gather fuelwood over a particular piece of land. We
need to ask about the non-farmers, not only the landless but also specialists, service
people, labourers. Do they buy fuel? Or do they have permission to collect? As a
freely obtainable good, no local market existed for fuelwood. In some areas, though,
fuelwood has been long considered a commodity. The key factor is usually availability.
In the.Lake Patzcuaro region of Mexico, people from lake communities, where deforestation
already had occurred, traded fish for firewood and ocote (resinous pine) supplied by
highland areas. In the Basin of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, shortages of wood have long
caused firewood and charcoal to be commercialized. Among Pasil villages in the northern
Luzon Highlands of the Philippines, firewood is exchanged for rice in densely populated
areas, but no market exists for it in sparsely settled West Pasil. At times, a few
individuals may purchase fuelwood while the rest of the population gathers it themselves.
For instance, in Mbere, Kenya, school teachers, rural business owners, and bar and canteen
owners were buying fuelwood before its transition from a free good to a marketable
commodity among the general population.
William Morgan's paper provides a valuable overview of the commercialization of
fuelwood in tropical Africa. With rapid population growth, increased urbanization,
changes in land use patterns as agriculture expands or land quality decreases, high
prices for fossil fuels, and local shortages of wood, the commercialization of fuelwood
is becoming a ubiquitous aspect of life in the developing countries. The change from
being a free good to a marketable commodity can occur quickly. In Mbere, Kenya, this
transition happened around 1976. Digernes reported that in Bara, Sudan:
Women of all groups used to collect their wood ten years ago, but because of
clearance of the town perimeter, most women now find the distance to wooded
areas too long for self-collection. Whereas they used to find wood some
15-30 minutes on food from Bara, now they would have to walk for one to two
hours. 13 households have stopped using wood at all, since the women say
they do not want to pay for a commodity which they used to obtain free until
recently. Otherwise the women have got used to dealing with the professionals
who have taken over the wood collecting that they themselves carried out
previously (Digernes, 1977:78).
In considering marketing and sales, it will often be necessary to go outside the
local community and to ascertain how much is being sold to outsiders. For example, in
Mbere, Kenya, the weekly (Tuesday) market at Ishiara attracts many outside buyers of
fuelwood and charcoal. Buyers come from the wealthier, but fuel-short Kikuyu highland
areas, and also from the towns and cities. It seems that every vehicle has many sacks
of charcoal precariously balanced on its roof, as it heads towards the urban areas. It
is not possible to study a community in isolation; it can only be understood in relation
to its net-work social, economic, political with the wider world. In studying fuelwood,
this network must be identified, described and analysed. For it is now common in
anthropological studies to talk of "a single social field" which includes rural and urban
People, ideas, goods and resources, with much criss-crossing.
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Seasonal variability in charcoal production
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 1965
Charcoal Prod. Frequency
Sources: derived from Hehr, 1967; from USAID, 1980, p. 79.
$1.50 January returning from the little activity, upland much production takes
coast w/corn and cash harvest already completed; place; price falls
$2.50 Feb-Mar corn planting from Feb. only few producers
to early March
April out-migration to overall decline In pro-
plant corn for those ductlon -- A base supply
w/Insufficient land. Is manufactured by 400 -
Migration to the 500 families who produce
coast to obtain and year-round, except In the
dry fish for Lent, planting season
which Is sold In the
May wheat sown production decreases
June-July production Increases
slightly, rainy season
$2.00 Aug-Oct Coastal migration to production decreases; minor
harvest corn, work on shortages In Q. but
coffee and corn farms. shortages are not critical
Half the 100 families
to to the coast
$3.00 Nov-Dec first two weeks of Nov. corn and wheat harvest charcoal manufacture comes
majority of highland begins to a "virtual halt" prices
families return from reach their peak In Q
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In looking at marketing, we need to examine the impacts of diverting fuelwood
from local subsistence use to commercial markets that are mostly located outside the
local area. What are the costs and benefits, and to whom do they accrue? Will
commercialization have positive or negative effects on local fuelwood supplies? Will
some individuals or groups be especially hurt or helped?
Further questions should be asked about the organization of the market. Are
prices controlled? Are controls effective? If not, how are regulations by-passed?
Is there control of movement of fuelwood by road blocks or vehicle inspection? Do the
marketing and pricing mechanisms operate equitably? What are the relations between
the fuelwood gatherers and producers, middle-men, sellers and forest service officials?
Who dictates the rules? What are the relative powers and bargaining positions of each
group? What changes are desirable, to improve the general fuelwood situation?
4.2.2 Employment Patterns
Producing fuelwood for sale may be a full or part-time occupation, though most
people engage in commercial fuelwood production as a part-time activity, usually during
the agricultural off-season. Thus, it supplements income or wages earned from other
activities. For example, Hehr (1967) showed that charcoal production in Cajola, Guatemala,
is related to changes in the subsistence farming and labour migration cycles (see
Cutting or selling fuelwood often has a low status attached to it. Whether the
remuneration obtained from this activity corresponds with this status depends on the
particular situation. In Tepotztlan, Mexico, Oscar Lewis found that making and selling
charcoal was more profitable than engaging in agriculture wage labour. Lewis commented:
But charcoal is thought of as dirty work, and it ranks very low in prestige,
being identified as a last occupation resort of the poor. Nevertheless, some
well-to-do families in the outlying barrios spend part of their time in
burning charcoal (Lewis, 1951:164-165).
In remote areas, where fuelwood production is unlikely to offer vast profits, the
business tends to be dominated by poor people. But with shortages driving up prices,
more entrepreneurs become involved in fuelwood marketing, especially in places near to
good markets or accessible by all-weather roads.
4.2.3 Seasonality, production and prices
We stress the importance of seasonality in fuelwood systems. In terms of
production, seasonality influences accessibility to forest stock and it is the base of
the agricultural cycle. The greatest amount of fuelwood collection usually occurs in
the dry season, when there is increased accessibility and also there is less time pressure
after crops are harvested. Other organic fuels, such as crop residues, also vary in
availability according to the season. Conversely, times when labour migrations or
harvests occur, and during the wet season, are periods of low production and higher
prices, and greater distances from production area to market. During the rainy season
in Kano, Nigeria, fuelwood is scarce, poor quality and expensive, so there is an increased
substitution of alternate fuels, especially kerosene.
Prices generally increase with the distance from supplying areas, but Digernes
states that this increase happens on different scales for various directions. She
suggests that variations occur because of difference in transportation, accessibility,
and the relative ages of supply centres.
4.2.4 Fuelwood prices and household socio-economic status
Prices for fuelwood also vary among different residential districts (or town
quarters) and classes of households. In Bara, Sudan, there were distinct variations in
mean prices within different quarters and between quarters, with the latter being less.
In both instances, middle and upper socio-economic status households tended to pay less
- 112 -
than poorer households (Digernes, 1977:73-75). The demand for fuelwood is also
influenced by seasonal changes in weather and temperature. Coo) or wet weather increases
fuelwood demand, for heating and cooking uses.
Depending of course upon the distance from supply source, fuelwood is often sold
by the same person who gathered it, with a variety of market strategies being employed
by sellers. Fuelwood may be sold in certain areas or stalls of established markets, or
vendors may be found along roadsides. Another common strategy is for the vendor to go
from door to door, until eventually a vendor may have a regular number of customers who
are visited at regular intervals.
At times, large fuelwood consumers such as bakeries or potters, contract with a
merchant or a direct producer of fuelwood in order to be assured of a regular supply.
Storage of wood becomes more important where fuelwood is commercialized, households
usually storing fuelwood for a few days supply, but poorer households may lack facilities
for storage, or lack money to buy any reserve supplies of fuelwood.
Sometimes fuelwood is collected in the dry season and stored for use during the
wet season, but with firewood scarcity becoming more prevalent, storage can become
difficult. However, shortages may prompt conservation through more careful use and
longer storage of collected fuelwood. Storing wood does allow it to dry out more,
providing more energy per unit weight. Some fuelwood entrepreneurs are apparently
investing in storage systems, anticipating an increase in demand and prices. For example,
traders in Ibadan send trucks into the countryside to buy large loads of wood, which are
then stored in town.
Thus attention should be given to storage. Factors such as the amount of storage
space, the duration of storage, and whether supplies are protected from moisture and
insects should be considered.
We include here some comments on reforestation, as this is an important aspect of
production: the amount of fuelwood available will depend in large part on wood supplies,
which in turn need replenishing. In examining reforestation, some basic questions need to
1. Who has what rights over land, especially as regarding planting of permanent
2. Is control of land separate from ownership of trees?
3. What historical developments have there been in land tenure, and what recent
4. What are traditional perceptions and knowledge of trees? Which species are
planted, which particularly valued, which protected for ritual or economic
reasons? Who plants trees, where and why? Is there a history of pollarding
5. Are there any multipurpose trees, like the famed Acacia senegal in West Africa,
which provides gum arabic, fuelwood, fodder, shade, and fibre?
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6. What trees are being planted today? Are they mainly exotic or are indigenous
species included? Are trees grown in single species stands, mixed with other
species, or scattered about cultivated land? What are the advantages or
disadvantages of each method?
7. What is the degree of deforestation? How do people perceive this? What recent
changes have there been?
8. What is being done, by individuals, communities or local or national government,
for reforestation? How effective are extension efforts? Are seedings easily
available, and is their availability known? What is the location of nurseries,
and what distribution system exists? (draw rough map). Is any effort made to
reach schools, women's clubs or other local groups?
9. For community fuelwood lots, what have been/are the types and extent of local
cooperative activities? How are these organized? How many people join in?
How active are they? What barriers are there to cooperation political, class,
caste, religious, ethnic?
This is not an exhaustive list, but indicates the sorts of questions that should be
asked before starting a forestation programme.
We indicate some aspects of relevant local practices and beliefs. In Bihar, India,
the local people are sceptical about single-purpose trees, and especially about
single-species stands. They have good reason to regard these as "unnatural" and
impracticable, because they are accustomed to useful multipurpose trees that supply their
needs for building material, fuelwood, food, fibre, forage, woven mats, implements and
To what extent do local people already plant trees? For example, in Kenya there
is a great variation in tree planting. In some areas (Kisii, Kakemega, Nyeri) there are
many private wood lots, usually eucalyptus for construction and fuel, and there are even
privately owned tree nurseries where local entrepreneurs sell seedlings. This is a
direct result of high population density, pressure on land and shortage of trees.
Are there indigenous species of trees that should be encouraged, rather than
considering the ubiquitous eucalyptus? In Kenya, Markhamia spo in Siaya, and Melia
volkensii in savanna country, are two trees that are locally appropriate, popular, useful
and often overlooked. For many years the forestry department in Kenya claimed that it was
impossible to germinate Melia volkensii, that it just grew. But the local people know
very well the seedlings "germinate successfully once the seeds of the fruits browsed by
goats have been passed in their droppings." One elder told researchers "every
uncircumcized herdboy knows how we germinate mikau"(Brokensha et al 1980:123). This
illustrates the need to enquire into indigenous knowledge, and not just to rely on
development from above.
A basic task of consumption surveys is to determine who consumes fuelwood.-
Households appear to be the largest overall consumers of fuelwood. In rural areas,
firewood.is usually the primary fuel, while urban households are the greatest consumers
of charcoal. There may be differences in both rural and urban areas in the types of
fuels used by various socio-economic strata or classes. Middle and upper classes tend
to change to petroleum-based fuels or electricity, particularly in urban areas.
Besides household users, fuelwood is consumed by local industries, small businesses,
and other establishments such as schools. Non-household consumers have received
relatively little attention in fuel surveys, with notable exceptions being the work of
Deanna Donovan and Turi Hammer Digernes (See Annex II). Among traditional manufacturers,
fuelwood is used in pottery making, food processing, baking, salt-manufacturing, smelting,
smithing, and textile production. Restaurants, tailor shops, hotels and small inns, and
food vendors are common users of fuelwood among small businesses. In some cases a growth
in tourism, which stimulates the hotel and food establishments, will increase the demand
There will always be a range in household use; indeed, fuelwood consumption can
sometimes serve as a good proxy indicator for wealth. The amount used will depend partly
on economic factors how much household income is available to buy, or household labour
to collect, fuelwood? Cultural aspects may also be important, and people's perception,
values, beliefs can all be significant. One person may insist on a fire for ritual
purposes, for example. The survey should indicate the range of consumption, and also
give some reasons for variations.
5.2 Household Uses
1. Cooking fires constitute the most significant use of fuelwood in households.
Data should be gathered on the organization of cooking activities whether it
is carried out on open fires, open stoves, or more sophisticated stoves (thus,
information on the household's socio-economic position is important); it is
also important to know who is assigned the tasks of tending fires and cooking.
2. Food preparation including smoking and drying of crop reserves.
3. Heating this will vary according to season and geographical zone.
4. Lighting (open fires).
5. Household manufacturing such as pottery making.
6. Brewing of beer or other alcoholic beverages may be locally significant for
7. Simultaneous uses a single fire may serve multiple purposes, such as cooking,
heating, and lighting.
8. Sometimes large scale rural industries exist. The fishermen at Mopti, Mali,
for example, use 40,000 tons of wood each year for their fish-drying, and
there is rarely any available biomass fuel within a range of 100 kms.
Tobacco-curing in Malawi and Tanzania accounts for large quantities of wood
9. Miscellaneous uses, including ceremonial and religious.
Note should be taken of the use of other fuels, either commercial ones like
kerosene, or traditional fuels like crop residues, animal dung, which are of major
importance in some areas (Sahel and India).
5.3 Conservation of Energy
An important aspect of consumption is the energy efficiency of present practices.
Many studies confirm the need to understand existing cooking technology, food patterns,
and perceptions and food values before proposing changes. Some innovations, such as the
Lorena stove, may be successfully introduced, but only if a careful study is first made
of existing cooking methods. Innovation should be adapted to what is there, not simply
imposed from above without regard to traditional technology. Some innovators are impatient
with this approach, but it usually pays dividends.
Puelwood is often used in a wasteful manner. The three stone open hearth, common
in many parts of Africa and elsewhere is an inefficient way of cooking, as are many of
the charcoal stoves currently used. In other areas, the fuelwood shortage has forced people
to make more effective use of energy, and wasteful practices have declined. One effective
conservation measure is reported from India, where a change in the position of the corpse
being prepared for cremation results in one-third less wood being consumed. But many
people have until recently regarded fuelwood as a free and abundant resource, and it may
be difficult to persuade people to change basic attitudes and beliefs.