Firewood as a fuel

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Forestry: Effects of population growth

  • 95% of people living in the rural area depend on wood as their source of fuel.
  • The urban population has access to electricity but due to the power shortages issues and load shedding wood fuel is still in great demand in Zimbabwe.
  • 60% of Zimbabwean households depend on firewood as a source of fuel
  • As Zimbabwe’s population has increased over the years, the demand for wood as a fuel as also increased.
  • Demand for agricultural and settlement land became high resulting in continuous clearing of the land and the shrinking of forests and woodlands.
  • The areas most affected are mainly found in the communal areas of the country, where greater pressure is being exerted by both human and livestock.
  • The communal areas are over dependent on wood for survival.
  • These also experience the greatest wood fuel shortages in the country.
  • The absence of electricity in most of these areas, the rapid population growth, increase in livestock numbers and increasing poverty have accelerated the rate of desertification in these areas.
  • Desertification is the process of turning productive land into barren land as a result of human activities and physical changes for example overgrazing, deforestation, over ploughing, poor farming methods as well as climate changes.
  • Much of the communal areas in Zimbabwe are slowly turning into deserts and their resources may not be sustained for future generations.
  • Low levels of technology in rural communities have resulted in over-consumption of wood and other resources and higher levels of wastage leading to resource over-exploitation and the pending exhaustion for example open fires, at times in the open air consume more fuel wood and produce less energy than more confined fires.
  • Lack of alternatives have also led to over-exploitation of woodlands.
  • Alternative sources of power could break this cycle but their widespread use is precluded by their expense in relation to the widespread poverty in the communal area.
  • These alternatives include the use of paraffin, solar energy and gas.

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