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The Booming Fuel Wood Market in Nigeria

  Fuel wood locally known as fire wood is no doubt the nations principal source of household cooking and its business potential for village farmers and wood retailers in major towns is booming.This is especially prevalent in the northern states of Nigeria (Being the largest black nation). Also due to the fact that the majority of its populace  are on low income. Poverty utilises fire wood as an energy source at the expense of its fragile environment due to the high populace to land mass ratio.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation of over 140 million inhabitants and is the 10th largest nation on the continent in terms of landmass (927,000sq/km).
I see large heaps of fuel wood in communities as I travel from Maiduguri the capital city of Borno state to Bauchi metropolis within Nigeria caused me to wonder why?

To my amazement seeing the heaps of fire wood bunches in various areas and markets made me to carry out a survey in Bauchi metropolis of this emerging new business. This is eroding both the government's meager effort and other agencies in combating desertification, drought and subsequently gradual soil productivity reduction to a barren state.

A wood retailer in Bauchi town who preferred to remain anonymous confided that they scavenge for fire wood in neighboring village communities outside the metropolis with their truck which can carry about 700 bunches of wood, where each bunch contains 7 to 8 log pieces of 90cm length and 12cm diameter per log of wood.

When in search for wood, the retailers leave Bauchi town early in the morning around 6am moving from one village to the other buying wood bunches at a cost of fifteen Naira (N15= 15 US cents) per bunch from various villages until they fill up their truck with the amount. Afterwards, they sell the woods to their distributors in several districts who buy at a wholesale rate of N30 to N35 per bunch.

A very lucrative enterprise with over 100% profit, unknown to them, many others in this business and even the nations force constables that operates check points outskirts the metropolis are violating the law by indulging in any act of commercial tree felling activities as long as it is not specifically grown for the purpose such as forestry. Such fire wood trading is not a unique or rare case in the nation but rather seen as a normal provision of basic home necessity in most cities.
Tree felling, an issue environmentalists, governments ,related agencies, NGOs and the international community are fighting against as it is the primary cause of the imbalance situation in our atmosphere known to us as Global warming.

Other causes are industrialization and population increase etc but all together reduction in global mass of trees due to settlement expansion, agriculture and industrialization at large is creating  less trees, more carbon dioxide (CO) and less oxygen a phenomena destabilizing our atmosphere. Basic knowledge; trees use the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce the oxygen we and other organisms use while it uses the carbon content from CO2 to grow.

Visibly to us as tree trunk, branches, roots,  etc while sunlight gives the energy for this process known to us as photosynthesis. So with more villages becoming towns and more towns becoming cities, this therefore results in clearing of more trees for settlements and to support their daily activities. Most importantly this issue of fire wood which is seen and taken slightly is becoming a menace to the nations quality of environment and its components i.e. soil, water, air and other living organisms therefore hindering sustainable development.

My personal analysis on this issue is quite complex due to it being delicate; taking into consideration of the fact that banning and enforcing the tree felling law without having a considerate alternative for Nigeria's majority masses that are in poverty is also a violation of the nations civil rights. . It is pertinent to note that most policies in Nigeria is at the expense of the masses, even Nigerias emerging middle class are resorting to fuel wood in their homes all for the sake of improving savings which is still at the expense on the quality of Nigeria delicate environment.

A country endowed with one of the largest gas and oil reserves happens to have the highest retail home cooking gas rate in Africa. As other populous nation like Egypt etc are giving subsidies to cooking gas where 12kg of cooking gas sells for around N400 the same quantity sells in this country for 600% higher at N2800 due to the recent rapid increase from N2000 all in the name of deregulation. As part of the sustainable development and struggle to combat desertification, drought and other related disasters, which currently the majority of the Northern states environment are suffering.

Subsiding basic home cooking gas will be a great step if implemented to shift the majority of its grassroots populace to a better source of energy for cooking which will lead to less harvesting of trees for domestic activities and subsequently tackling global warming.

A technical solution to this issue is the provision of alternative source of energy for domestic cooking that is cheaper and available, as the nation is blessed with solar energy of 3.5 to 7 watt per square meter, solar stoves that are not complex and easy to maintain which should be made available for sale or locally constructed if possible. Communities can also be enlightened and trained on creation of woodlot (tree farm) which can serve as tree reserve for domestic usages. Bio fuel can be generated using domestic liquid and solid waste to produce methane (CH4) for cooking purpose, as this research has gone far even in various tertiary institutions in the country.
Household pollution in Nigeria is a major threat to both the dwellers health and the environment at large, as it is a major non point source of the green house gasses which affects our micro and macro climate.

This requires seriously attention and possible alternatives. As part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG's) to encourage sustainable development in every field of life, Nigeria is far from reaching the 2015 target due to most of its implemented policies that are not targeted for the benefit of the ordinary Nigeria in poverty or to make life easier as the case maybe for our counterparts in developed nations.

As the nation is still in its struggle to secure constant electricity, adequate security, quality health and transport systems which this current administration is trying to achieve, one of the only way grassroots
Nigerians will benefit is to adopt policies that directly influence their lives in a positive way.

Ali Grema Mohammed is an IEMA member and a student of Environmental management technology, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Nigeria.

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