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International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management Vol. 6, Nos. 3–4, September–December 2010, 139–145 Household adaptations to fuelwood shortage in the old Brahmaputra downstream zone in Bangladesh and implications for homestead forest management a a,b a Shalina Akther , Md. Danesh Miah and Masao Koike * a b Department of Forest Science, Forest Policy Laboratory, Shinshu University, Nagano-ken, Japan; Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, University of Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh Fuelwood is the principal source of energy, especially in rural households in developing countries like Bangladesh. Due to over-use and unsustainability of fuelwood production, it has become a scarce resource in many poor countries. To understand reasons for household fuelwood scarcity and adaptation techniques, an exploratory survey was carried out in rural households in the downstream zone of the Old Brahmaputra River, Bangladesh, from November 2008 to February 2009. The majority (94%) of households experienced fuelwood scarcity. The high price of fuelwood was the main reason in 49% of households, followed by unsustainability of the fuelwood use (14%), and fragmentation of homestead land (almost 13%). The households experiencing fuelwood scarcity adapted to using other resources such as leaves and twigs, cow dung, rice husks and rice straw and by optimising the duration of fuelwood burning. The study conﬁrms that smaller family size, higher literacy rate, higher total land ownership and higher income of households determine the use of environment-friendly adaptation options. The study gives recommendations for more sustainable homestead forest management, speciﬁcally focusing on institutional support and active participation of all stakeholders in the planning process. This will be important for developing future forest and agricultural policy in Bangladesh. Keywords: fuelwood; household adaptation strategies; forest management; cow dung Introduction Fuelwood shortage and the responses of those affected Biomass is still the major energy source in developing have been documented for many developing countries. countries (Balat and Ayar 2005). Rural households are Arnold et al. (2006) found fuelwood crisis symptoms the major agents of consumption for this energy due to in Africa and South Asia due to the declining access their cooking (Koopmans 2005). However, due to over-use to fuelwood and markets, as also conﬁrmed by Cooke and unsustainability in fuelwood production, especially in et al. (2008). Several other authors have found a change homestead forests, wood fuel has become a scarce resource in economic behaviour of households to adapt to fuel- (Streets and Waldhoff 1999; Smith et al. 2000). The harm- wood scarcity: Brouwer et al. (1997) for Malawi, Aina ful effects of fuelwood deﬁcits and scarcity of alternative and Odebiyi (1998) for Nigeria, Ngugi (2002) and sources of fuel are mostly felt by women as a social group, Mahiri (2003) for Kenya, Mlambo and Huizing (2004) and poor rural women in particular (Aina and Odebiyi for Zimbabwe, and Palmer and MacGregor (2009) for 1998). In order to survive, however, rural households have Namibia. to depend on many kinds of available biomass and have to Despite many studies on rural energy sources (e.g. adopt several mechanisms for obtaining energy. However, Sarker and Islam 1998; Alam et al. 1999; Miah et al. this adaptation is degrading the environment, threaten- 2003, 2009, 2010; Jashimuddin et al. 2006) in Bangladesh, ing forest and agricultural ecosystem, and contributing household fuelwood shortage and their responses to this to global climate change (Mahapatra and Mitchell 1999; shortage remain unexplored. In this perspective, the key Wijayatunga and Attalage 2002; Mahiri 2003; Bhatt and research question concerns whether there is any fuelwood Sachan 2004; Mlambo and Huizing 2004; Balat and Ayar shortage at household level and what are the responses of 2005; Chen et al. 2006; Liu et al. 2008). households in Bangladesh. It was hypothesised that rural About 77% of the total population of Bangladesh lives households in the Old Brahmaputra downstream zone had in rural areas (BBS 2006). Many rural households depend a fuelwood shortage and that they had to adapt to that situ- primarily on woody biomass for their daily energy needs. ation. The study was conducted in the Old Brahmaputra As biomass production in Bangladesh is generally not downstream zone of Bangladesh to identify any fuel- sustainable, its repeated collection is causing deforestation, wood shortages and the responses of households to such thus hampering ecosystem viability (Miah et al. 2003). The shortages. The study addresses important issues related unplanned excessive use of biomass energy also results in to renewable energy development and provides sugges- adverse impacts on health caused by indoor air pollution tions for improving the forestry and agricultural sectors in (Miah et al. 2009). Bangladesh. *Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com ISSN 2151-3732 print/ISSN 2151-3740 online © 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/21513732.2010.538720 http://www.infomaworld.com 140 S. Akther et al. Materials and methods literacy in the upazila is 36% (BBS 2006). The main occu- pations are agriculture (61%), agricultural labourer (13%), The study was conducted in an area downstream of the business (10%), service in government, semi-government Old Brahmaputra River, the Belabo upazila (a Local gov- and non-governmental ofﬁces (3%) and wage labourer ernment unit under a district in Bangladesh; Figure 1), in (2%); other occupations are transport as drivers (1%), the Narsingdi district. A stratiﬁed random sampling tech- industry (1%) and other 9% (BBS 2006). Total culti- nique was used to locate the union parishads (units within vated land covers 8104 ha, of which 74.7% is single an upazila), villages and households to be included in the crops, 23.94% is double crops and 1.39% is treble crops study, with upazila as the primary sampling unit and the (BBS 2006). The main crops are paddy rice, jute, ginger, households of villages as the ultimate sampling unit. The turmeric, chillies and vegetables (BBS 2006). study was conducted from November 2008 to February 2009 and involved a socio-demographic survey at house- hold level in the study site. The survey was conducted Characteristics of the respondents through several personal visits to the selected households. Eighty-six per cent of respondents in the study area were male. As most women tended to be reluctant to talk to Study area outsiders, we approached male heads of selected families The total area of the Belabo upazila is 312.77 km households for data collection. All of the respondents ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ (24 05 30 –24 09 17 N latitude, 90 51 00 –90 85 00 E were Muslim. More than half of respondents (55%) longitude). The main rivers ﬂowing through the upazila are were farmers, 22% were day labourers on other people’s the Old Brahmaputra and the Arial khan (BBS 2006). The agricultural farms, 10% were employed by government area of the upazila has a uniform temperature ranging from and non-government organisations locally and 13% were ◦ ◦ a minimum of 12.7 C to a maximum of 36.0 C, moderate small business people and in other jobs. The general humidity and average annual rainfall of 2300 mm (BBS occupational classiﬁcation described here for Belabo 2006). Belabo upazila consists of seven union parishads, upazila is different from the occupational scenario of the 52 mouzas (units below a parishad mainly used for land current speciﬁc study site. This is the result of the long demarcation) and 99 villages. The total population of time between the most recent population census and the the upazila is 164,038, with 34,174 households. Average present study, as well as some local factors. Figure 1. Map of Belabo upazila, Narsingdi district of Bangladesh. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 141 −1 −1 Sampling and data collection income (US$ month household ), literacy and total land owned. Fuelwood shortage was conﬁrmed accord- Bangladesh can be subdivided into 20 regions, based ing to respondent’s perceptions, as ‘Severe’, ‘Moderate’ on soil physiographic units (SRDI 1997). The Old and ‘Less important’. Adaptations used in households Brahmaputra ﬂoodplain is one unit, with unique socio- in response to fuelwood scarcity were cross-tabulated as cultural–economic condition due to repeated ﬂooding and ‘Option-1’, ‘Option-2’ and ‘Option-3’, in terms of priority. ﬂuctuating soil in the area, so that local people have Determinants of the adaptations were conﬁrmed according to adapt continuously (Egashira et al. 2004; Islam et al. to the socio-economic factors described above. 2010). Despite the documentation of fuelwood shortages To build the literacy score, education level of family and responses in many developing countries, adaptation to members was necessary: Illiterate was weighted by 0; pri- ﬂooding is currently unexplored in Bangladesh. Therefore, mary as 5; SSC (Secondary School Certiﬁcate) as 10; HSC a case study in one region of Bangladesh is critical to deter- (Higher Secondary Certiﬁcate) as 12 and graduate as 15. mine if there is a fuelwood shortage at household level and The weighting factor was selected based on the study span the responses of households in Bangladesh. maintained by the Bangladesh National Education system. To fulﬁll these objectives, the study was con- The literacy score was calculated by adding the literacy ducted through stratiﬁed random sampling. The sampling weights of every family member of the household divided sequence was from upazila to union, from union to village by the family size. A comparatively higher literacy score and then village to household. Household was the ulti- shows higher education and knowledge. The income of mate unit of the study. For the study, two unions, Belabo households was collected in the local currency (taka) and and Sallabad, were selected from the upazila and two vil- then converted into US dollar (US$1 = taka 70) for the lages from each union were randomly selected. On the time of the study. basis of socio-economic information and list of households obtained from the Union Parishad Ofﬁce, 15 households were randomly selected from each village, which resulted in a total of 60 households. For random sampling, a ran- Results dom number table was used to ﬁrst select unions from the Responses to the fuelwood shortage upazila, and then select villages from unions, and ﬁnally households from the selected villages. After sampling the Ninety-four per cent of households said they had a fuel- unions and villages, sampling of households was done with wood scarcity, and 6% did not think there was fuelwood the help of people supplied by the Union Parishad Ofﬁce. scarcity. Most respondents thought that fuelwood was a The ward members and key persons in society also helped scarce resource because they had to spend much money physically to locate the households. to buy it. The households who own or have social access A reconnaissance survey in October 2008 was the to natural village groves stated that they had no fuelwood ﬁrst step to obtain an overview of the Old Brahmaputra scarcity. downstream zone. The ﬁnal survey was carried out The scarcity-households had a literacy score of through a well-deﬁned semi-structured questionnaire from 8.54 ± 4.28 (SE), land owned was 4262.87 ± 1599.79 m , November 2008 to February 2009. Data were collected on and income of the household was US$274.69 ± 48.25 −1 demography of the respondents, type of land, land owner- month (Table 1). Of the households which responded ship, household dwelling characteristics, type of biomass, that they had no fuelwood scarcity, the literacy score biomass sources and other associated information. In the was 2.69 ± 1.58, land owned was 2239.87 ± 414.72 m , semi-structured interview, the main questions were related and income of the household was US$186.65 ± 56.74 −1 to any fuelwood shortage and adaptive mechanisms devel- month . The study also revealed that households with a oped to cope. All ﬁeld data were collected by direct larger family faced more fuelwood scarcity than those with interviews of household heads and physical observations. a lower family size. The major victims of fuelwood scarcity To verify the interviewer’s facts, several cross-checks were conducted. The collected data were cross-checked ﬁnally Table 1. Household responses to fuelwood scarcity according to in a group meeting at every village involving people from socio-economic factors in the Old Brahmaputra downstream zone various levels: school teacher, religious leader, political of Bangladesh. leader and housewives. After cross-checking, 3–5% of the collected information from semi-structured questionnaires Responses to fuelwood scarcity had to be adjusted. Socio-economic factors No Yes a b Family size 4 (1.23) 7 (2.36) Analysis of data −1 Income (US$ month 186.65 (56.74) 274.69 (48.25) −1 The collected ﬁeld data were compiled and analysed household ) with SPSS 13.0. To ﬁnd any fuelwood scarcity at house- Literacy score 2.69 (1.58) 8.54 (4.28) Total land owned (m ) 2239.87 (414.72) 4262.87 (1599.79) hold level, the frequency of the scarcity response (yes, no) of each respondent was conﬁrmed, then cross- a b Notes: Values without parentheses are means. Values in parentheses are tabulated with socio-economic factors, that is, family size, standard error of the mean. 142 S. Akther et al. Table 2. Fuelwood scarcity perception of households in the Old Children Brahmaputra downstream zone of Bangladesh. 3% Responses to fuelwood scarcity (% households) Male 12% Less Perception Severe Moderate important Excessive demand 1.26 2.1 9.8 for burning in brickﬁeld Excessive increase 5.4 13.2 7.5 of human population Fragmentation of 12.6 14.2 13.5 homestead land Fuelwood not 7.8 16.5 2 available Female Fuelwood is so 49.2 8.7 9.5 85% expensive Fuelwood 14 9.7 16 production is not sustainable Figure 2. Victims of fuelwood scarcity in households of the Old Natural village 7.6 11.8 22.2 Brahmaputra downstream zone of Bangladesh. forest has been degraded in households were the females of the family (85%), fol- Supply is much 2.14 23.8 19.5 lowed by males (12%) and children (3%) (Figure 2). less than demand Total (%) 100 100 100 Fuelwood shortage perception The study showed that rural households were severely Table 3. Adaptation to fuelwood scarcity by households in the Old affected by fuelwood scarcity. The cost of fuelwood was Brahmaputra downstream zone of Bangladesh. reported as the main factor by 49.2% of households, followed by the unsustainability of fuelwood (14%), frag- Households (%) Adaptation mentation of homestead land (12.6%), etc. Of the house- methods Option-1 Option-2 Option-3 holds that considered fuelwood was in a moderate crisis, 23.8% mentioned that ‘supply is much less than demand’ Optimising the 5.7 25.3 18.4 time for (Table 2). fuelwood The analysis shows that most households think that burning fuelwood is a scarce resource because it is so expensive, Trytostop 8.5 2.1 3.4 natural village forest has been degraded, and a few house- misuse of holds think it is scarce because supply is much less than fuelwood Use bamboo 6.9 0 0 demand, excess demand for wood in brickﬁelds, and the Use leaves and 22.5 9.8 8.5 rapid increase in the human population. It is clear that twigs there was a considerable gap between supply and demand Use biogas 0 0 3.4 of fuelwood, which is also a growing problem in the rural Use branches 0 10.5 5.4 areas of Kenya (Mahiri 2003). Use briquettes 3.6 4.1 4.2 Use cow dung 13.6 7.8 7.8 Use improved 7.9 6.4 8.4 cooked stove Adaptation to the fuelwood scarcity Use jute sticks 6.3 6.3 7.4 About 23% of rural households adapted to the fuelwood Use rice husks 12.5 10.8 12.4 scarcity by using leaves and twigs as their ﬁrst option, Use rice straw 5.6 11.8 8.4 Use sawdust 3.5 2.4 6.9 followed by 14% who used cowdung, etc. (Table 3). As Use wood 3.4 2.7 5.4 a second option, 25% of households optimised the time residues from of burning of fuelwood, followed by 12% who used rice older wooden straw. structures Total (%) 100 100 100 The analysis showed that the majority of households were optimising time for fuelwood burning, as well as Notes: The sequential options indicate priority of the adaptation methods. using leaves and twigs, rice husks, cowdung and branches Option-1 is the ﬁrst priority adaptation, Option-2 the second priority and Option-3 the last priority. Indicates percentage of the households. to mitigate fuelwood scarcity because of high price and International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 143 shortage of fuelwood. A few people were using bam- However, it is clear that lower family size, higher liter- boo and other material because of fuelwood scarcity. acy, higher total land ownership and higher income of Mlambo and Huizing (2004) report that rural households households determine the environment-friendly adaptation of Zimbabwe mitigate fuelwood scarcity by extinguishing to fuelwood scarcity. ﬁres with water soon after cooking, while some households reduce the frequency and duration of cooking and space heating. They also used unﬁred bricks to construct their Discussion houses. The study conﬁrmed that the majority of households had a fuelwood scarcity. Family size, literacy, land ownership and monthly income of households were found to determine Factors inﬂuencing adaptation the adaptations to fuelwood scarcity in rural households The variations in adaptation options were found to depend of the Old Brahmaputra downstream zone of Bangladesh. on family size, literacy, total land owned and total income However, the expression of fuelwood scarcity was higher per month. Households with seven or more members in the more literate and larger family households. The sole adapted to the fuelwood crisis by using bamboo, sawdust purpose of fuelwood in rural households of Bangladesh is and rice straw; households with of 6–7 members used jute cooking. Similar results were found by Miah et al. (2009) sticks, wood from older wooden structures, and leaves and for another ﬂoodplain zone of Bangladesh. Household con- twigs (Table 4). Miah et al. (2010) found that households sumption of fuelwood is positively correlated with family with larger families consume more biomass energy for size (r = 0.79; p< 0.05). Thus, from the perspective of cooking in some less developed villages of Bangladesh. fuelwood shortage, a larger family feels more scarcity than So, fuelwood need is related to family size (Brouwer et al. a smaller family in the present study. 1997), leading to different adaptation strategies (Corcoran Literacy and monthly direct income are generally pos- 1995; Mlambo and Huizing 2004). Households with a itively correlated. Households with higher income and literacy score of eight or more adapted to the crisis by education were more conscious about fuelwood scarcity. optimising the time for fuelwood burning, trying to stop The scarcity was perceived as physical scarcity, that is, the misuse of fuelwood, using briquettes, improved cook- declining access to fuelwood growing stock and market. ing stoves, and wood residues from older wooden struc- The degree of understanding was related to education level tures. Households with total land ownership of >4046 m of the households, as also found in the study of Arnold −1 household were found to use improved cooking stoves et al. (2006) for other South Asian and African countries. and wood residues from older wooden structures. Bamboo However, that relatively higher scarcity felt by households and jute sticks were used by comparatively less liter- with more land is a little surprising. This could, however, ate households. Jute sticks, briquettes, leaves and twigs, be explained by the land uses of these households, with and trying to stop misuse of fuelwood were adaptations homestead land, fallow land and agricultural land consti- −1 of households with an income of US$ <215 month . tuting the total land ownership of the household. Fuelwood However, optimising the time of cooking and using rice growing stock (homestead forest) was usually on the home- −1 straw were found in the income group US$ >215 month . stead land. In the study area, the size of homestead forests Individual factors cannot readily explain the fuelwood of households did not vary greatly; therefore, the fuelwood adaptations, as opposed to combined effects of family size, crisis felt by households with higher land ownership might literacy, total land ownership and income of households. be due to a lack of growing stock or their perceptions, Table 4. Determinants of adaptation methods to fuelwood scarcity in households of the Old Brahmaputra downstream zone of Bangladesh. Total income (US$ −1 Literacy Total land owned month 2 −1 Adaptation method Family size score (m ) household ) Optimising time for fuelwood burning 5.12 (1.23) 10.23 (3.41) 3740.53 (895.78) 385.65 (87.25) Try to stop misuse of fuel wood 3.45 (0.56) 8.12 (2.65) 2194.96 (415.93) 195.24 (22.58) Use bamboo 7.64 (1.54) 5.21 (1.22) 2931.33 (952.43) 234.28 (35.48) Use leaves and twigs 6.00 (1.45) 7.00 (2.55) 2639.61 (710.07) 201.44 (41.25) Use briquettes 5.42 (0.98) 10.12 (3.25) 1425.81 (499.68) 185.55 (22.78) Use cow dung 5.69 (1.22) 8.54 (2.54) 2684.52 (576.56) 245.69 (41.22) Use improved cooked stove 5.70 (0.67) 8.12 (2.44) 5740.06 (2032.71) 245.88 (77.25) Use jute sticks 6.23 (1.14) 5.22 (1.22) 3044.21 (698.74) 214.35 (34.36) Use rice husks 6.50 (1.11) 7.12 (2.44) 3335.93 (1026.07) 225.22 (28.33) Use rice straw 7.45 (1.22) 6.98 (3.22) 2278.71 (669.21) 332.22 (65.24) Use sawdust 7.88 (2.33) 6.44 (2.44) 2193.34 (549.45) 225.36 (75.22) Use wood residues from older wooden structure 6.40 (1.32) 9.50 (3.24) 6688.85 (985.20) 222.66 (15.68) Note: Values in parentheses are standard error of the mean. 144 S. Akther et al. as also reported by Ngugi (2002) for a Kenyan village. rice husk and rice straw. However, the fuelwood crisis is The major victims of the fuelwood crisis in the households compelling households to depend on the leaves and twigs were female. Biomass fuel collection and burning for cook- from homestead forests, which is reducing the nutrients ing are the responsibilities of women in rural Bangladesh. on the forest ﬂoor. On the other hand, the dependence on Thus, the fuel crisis ﬁrst affects women in a rural family. cowdung as fuel is also reducing the fertility of the agri- Gathering of fuelwood and other traditional fuels is a cultural land. Using rice husks and straw also indicates strenuous and time-consuming task, mainly performed by the vulnerability of nutrients of cattle and poultry of the women, and indoor exposure to particulate matter created households. Furthermore, the crisis may lead to irreversible by cooking and heating with traditional fuels, has a great degradation of the local forest and agricultural ecosys- impact on women’s health (Howells et al. 2005). Aina and tems. It should be noted that most of the ﬁndings in the Odebiyi (1998) also reported that rural women spent more present study were expected, having been supported by time on fuelwood collection, preparation and use in Nigeria other studies in different developing countries in the past. and Sudan in the face of fuelwood shortage. Laxmi et al. However, the relationship between fuelwood shortage and (2003) for India and Wickramasinghe (2003) for some human responses are surprising for the Old Brahmaputra countries in South Asia conﬁrmed that females were the ﬂoodplain area and even for Bangladesh. In general it can victims of the fuelwood crisis. However, the degradation be stated that sustainable management of the homestead of village groves, over-population, and extreme cost of forests is important for environmentally friendly energy fuelwood were reported by most households as the major use and biodiversity conservation in the homestead forest causes of the fuelwood crisis. Using leaves, twigs and ecosystems of Bangladesh. cowdung, as well as optimising the time of burning were the major adaptation methods. Other important adaptations Recommendations were using branches, rice husks and straw. Forestry professionals should develop a sustainable home- The fuelwood crisis is compelling households to stead forest management system appropriate to the local depend on the leaves and twigs from homestead forests, physical and cultural conditions, rooted in existing local which is reducing the nutrients on the forest ﬂoor. Nutrients practice, acceptable to local users, and for the advancement in tree biomass are returned to soil in the tropical home- of multiple objectives recognised by the people. Forestry stead forests, through litter fall and root turnover, or delib- professionals and extension workers should enhance activ- erately through pruning (Kumar and Nair 2004). However, ities by working with households to maximise potential of Kumar and Nair (2004) conﬁrmed that in many tropi- homestead forestry. cal homestead forests, litter is removed for fuel and/or Technical information for tree growers, site-speciﬁc as organic manure to be used elsewhere. Although pre- quality seedlings and effective institutional support will be cise data are not available, these authors document that critical to sustainable homestead forest management. Due ﬂoristic diversity of homestead forests in the tropics has to the increasing population and fragmentation of home- declined in the past four to ﬁve decades due to the stead forest lands, land for tree growing in the homestead unsustainability of the homestead forest management. forest area is very limited. Hence, forestry extension work- Muhammed et al. (2008) and Miah et al. (2009) addressed ers should identify available land suitable for tree planting the unsustainability of homestead forestry in Bangladesh in rural areas. Appropriate measures should be taken to and emphasised the need for sustainable forest manage- plant trees on such land. Systematic tree planting designs ment, with high species diversity and low ‘export’ of har- and appropriate species selection may be useful on home- vested products. 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International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management – Taylor & Francis
Published: Dec 1, 2010
Keywords: fuelwood; household adaptation strategies; forest management; cow dung
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