Children fetching firewood for the family’s cooking energy needs.

A girl exposed to harmful smoke whilst cooking for the family

Woman lightening her charcoal earth kiln

Hazardous burning of saw saw dust posing health challenges to inhabitants

Ecosystem Integrity

According to a UNDP report, “Ghana’s reliance on wood fuel has become a serious threat to the ecosystem of the country. Ghana’s tropical forest area is today 25 percent of its original size. Yet, almost 2% or 22,000 hectares of forest are depleted every year. Next to commercial logging, agricultural practices and mining, the heavy reliance on wood fuel exacerbates this unsustainable trend.

In the long run, taking into account a growing population, this may well lead to a national ecological disaster. It is estimated that every person in Ghana currently uses around 1 cubic meter or 640 kg of fuel wood (both charcoal and firewood) per annum. Although wood as biomass fuel is often considered a renewable energy source, this only holds true if trees are replanted. Today, forest growth in Ghana is less than half of fuel wood demand. This makes fuel wood an unsustainable energy option1. It implies a huge loss of biodiversity, and major damage to the ecosystem, not only exacerbating the threat to species survival significantly, but also threatening food and water security for the human population, as deforestation increases land erosion and accentuates drought and flooding.

From 1990 to 2005, Ghana lost an estimated 27.6 % of its forest and woodland cover. The situation in Northern Ghana clearly illustrates the danger of ecosystem failure. Positioned on the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert, the area is constantly at risk for deforestation and desertification. The felling of trees for fuel, in addition to agricultural practices, poses a serious threat to efforts to preserve the ecosystems and vegetation of the area, the biodiversity and the way of life of the people.

Improved cook stoves are one of the least-cost tools for addressing the social and environmental burdens stemming from wood and charcoal burning. Enhancements in recent years in the design and construction of improved cook stoves have led to significant reductions in the amount of fuelwood harvested, as well as a significant reduction in the direct exposure of stove users to smoke. These reductions have the potential to halve fuel wood harvesting rates thus addressing the problem of deforestation and biodiversity loss beneficial to the environment and the health of the improved stove users.

CookClean sets a significant precedent in dissemination of reduced fuel wood use and is also committed to developing methods of substituting non-sustainable charcoal and firewood with sustainable wood-fuels and has consequently set up briquettes and charcoal production facilities using agricultural wastes and saw dust as feed stock. These products will contribute to replacing the felling of trees to produce charcoal or to be used as firewood.

Ecosystem Services

In the context of ecosystem integrity, tree cover in Ghana provides the essential ecosystem service for the country, stabilizing water supply and soil condition. CookClean’s Programme of Activities reduces the rapid loss of tree cover by halving fuel wood consumption by thy application of improved cook stoves and/or substituting fuelwood with renewable briquettes and charcoal and by so doing reduce soil erosion and provide better soil quality hence higher crop yields and food security. With fewer trees felled, there will be more rain, less soil erosion, silting and flash flooding of the river, leading to a more stable water supply throughout the year. Furthermore, reduced tree felling protects the natural habitat of many creatures and plants.

One of Ghana’s principal challenges in activating economic growth for poverty reduction implies a high dependence on the provision and delivery of energy services. Achieving these developmental objectives requires the management of economic, social and environmental aspects of development.

Environmental resources are major wealth assets of Ghana. However, the consequences of inconsistent approaches to environment represent underestimated risks to future development prospects. Wood energy fits the bill perfectly, making it a real and practical solution to “decarbonize” the global economy.

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