The desert is... encroaching - but why?

Mariri wood depot in Kano  Photo: Aminu Abubakar/IRIN

KANO, 28 March 2008 (IRIN) - Experts agree that an estimated 35 percent of land that was cultivatable 50 years ago is now desert in 11 of Nigeria’s northern states, but what they are not so sure about is why.

These are indications of global warming which the world must grapple with,” Igiri West, a Kano-based environmentalist told IRIN. "The level of industrial and vehicular emissions [in industrialised countries] is so high that they are capable of drastically affecting the climate [in northern Nigeria].”

But Kabiru Yammama of the National Forest Conservation Council of Nigeria disagrees: “Deforestation constitutes 75 percent of the environmental problems in northern Nigeria,” he said.

The increasing need for wood fuel for domestic use has caused the rapid depleting of trees which has… caused increasing havoc on the environment and put farming activities at great risk,” he said.

Yammama said the population burns over 40.5 million tonnes of firewood each year which destroys over 400,000 hectares of forest.

Environmental activists have been lobbying the government to create a Desert Control Commission and pass a federal bill to address desertification, but parliament has not yet taken action.


One of the worst affected areas is Yobe State in northern Nigeria. “Sand dunes are encroaching at a rate of 30 hectares a year, taking over [entire] villages,” Suleiman Garba, project manager of the federally-funded North East Arid Zone Development Programme, told IRIN.

Other affected areas include Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states.

The symptoms are erosion, rain shortages and drought, said Basiru Buwa Adamu, Kano state director of afforestation, adding that the livelihoods of over 55 million people are threatened, more than the combined population of Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mauritania.

A report of Nigeria’s National Meteorological Agency released in early March 2008 said the rainy season in the north has dropped to 120 days from an average of 150 days 30 years ago and as a result crop yields have dropped by 20 percent.

For environmentalist West this is an indication of global warming. "The Himalayas and the Arctic provide a cooling effect to global climates and temperatures that are becoming warmer by the day with the ice melting, causing climatic change globally. While the other parts of the world are experiencing flooding and excessive rainfall, here we are experiencing rain shortages and drought".


Yet for Adamu, Kano State’s director of afforestation, “global warming pales into insignificance [compared] to the environmental problems… which deforestation engenders.”

The forests in northern Nigeria have almost vanished and lumberjacks keep moving steadily southwards. Nigeria has the world's highest deforestation rate of primary forests according to a 2005 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report. “[This] puts it on track to lose virtually all of its primary forest within a few years,” the report said.

Crop yields of farmers in more southerly states such as Niger, Plateau, Kogi and Benue have dropped and, at the same time, northerners are migrating south looking for greener pastures for their cattle, and that leads to increased conflict over land. aa/dh/aj/cb (IRIN)

Some information on the background of our project in Kaduna/Nigeria


1. General Informations
2. A highly efficient fuel wood saving stove

3. Balance of wood fuel consumption & production in Nigeria
4. Wood Fuel, Housholds and Climate in Kaduna-State, Nigeria

1. General Informations

There are virtually no more trees in Northern Nigeria, and civil strife between population groups has erupted on several occasions with very high losses of human life and important destructions. While these clashes were commonly perceived as the outcome of religious disputes, our working hypothesis is that they were largely motivated by competition for resources, but surfaced alongside religious fracture lines.

Our intention is to address the wood fuel resource problem by the supply of different types of solar cookers and wood-fuel-saving cook-stoves.

The aims are:

High-performance wood-fuel-saving cook-stoves are a cornerstone in our programme for two reasons:

  1. the sun is not always shining to allow solar cooking,

  2. the owners of the numerous roadside restaurants (locally known as Mammy Put) ask for quick cooking facilities and are prepared to pay cash.

Therefore this part of the project is most likely to give positive results in the near future.

Our project group was initiated by friends of Yahaya Ahmed, who works and acts under the umbrella of “Lernen – Helfen – Leben e.V.” (LHL), a German NGO with experience in development projects in Ghana and Chad.

Yahaya Ahmed returned to his country to fully engage in renewable energy promotion within the context of the “Development Association for Renewable Energies” (D.A.R.E.), founded in 2005, and in close cooperation with the “Muslim Christian Dialogue Forum” and other relevant groups and institutions.

The main aims of our project are to supply households with affordable cleaner energy, to bring wood consumption down to a sustainable level, and to create conditions so as to allow natural regeneration of woody vegetation and/or reforestation. Fuel wood is much in demand and there are nearly no supply areas in the northern states of Nigeria due to deforestation. Fuel wood is forthcoming from the south of the country, is very expensive and has a high moisture content.

The prevailing way of cooking is on a three-stone-fire, a wasteful technique. Public interest and political demand for more efficient appliances are big. Yahaya Ahmed and his local people in Kaduna have already founded an NGO – “Development Association for Renewable Energy” (D.A.R.E.) to promote energy-saving techniques and solar energy applications at the household level. Together with our second local partner in Nigeria, the Muslim Christian Dialogue Forum (MCDF) we launch a project to import and sell highly efficient fuel wood saving cook-stoves, such as the Philips woodstove and/or the Save80, both produced by European manufacturers. Solar cookers will also be promoted.

Dr.Paul Krämer, Soest

A highly efficient fuel wood saving stove – the Save80 in Kaduna, Nigeria

The Save80 is a portable stove. It has a nominal effective thermal power of 1.5 kW and needs only 250 g of wood to bring 6 litres of water to the boil, 80% less than traditional fire places. On one side near the upper rim there is a quadratic opening for feeding fuel into the burning chamber. On the same side there are round air inlets; after kindling, air is sucked in and down along the outer surface of the burning chamber − due to the thermal drift − and enters the burning chamber from below. In its passage along the outer surface of the burning chamber the air is pre-heated; this assures high temperatures and complete burning with no visible smoke and only small amounts of ashes. At the same time, the air space between the burning chamber and the outer casing serves as a thermal isolation layer or buffer. Exhaust air outlets are on the side opposite the air inlets.

The interior parts are made of stainless steel. Wood in small pieces, diameter and length about that of a finger, is fed into the stove through the quadratic opening. Smoke is seen only immediately after kindling. The stove is suitable for cooking, heating and sterilising water and frying, but not for baking, except flat bread.

After reaching the boiling point, food – for instance rice – can be transferred to the Wonderbox, a retained heat cooking device. There it will continue to simmer until it is well cooked. In the meantime, the Save80 can be used to prepare the sauce. The Wonderbox is made of expanded polypropylene, unbreakable, stackable, lightweight, tightly fitting around the pot, and keeps the temperature for a long time. After 2 hours the temperature decreases from 100 ° C to about 90°C, after 12 hours it is still 65 ° C. The Wonderbox allows important energy savings in addition to the savings by the Save80.

The Save80 components are shipped in large packages to reduce volume. A 40-ft container can accommodate the components for 1200 stoves. Mounting the stoves is done in a workshop at the site of destination. The first container shipment has arrived in Kaduna, and mounting and sales are underway.

Industrial production allows constant quality standards; however, transport cost, port congestion, complicated and expensive procedures and high customs duties make it difficult to offer the Save80 at a price well below 100 €. On the other hand, tax-free import or, if possible, local production and the mobilization of climate protection funds, eventually coupled with the availability of micro-finance facilities, might allow large-scale dissemination of this very promising stove. This is of utmost importance in view of the rapidly declining forest wood resources in Nigeria. Dr.P.Krämer


Balance of wood fuel consumption & production in Nigeria

and especially in Kaduna State.

National Consumption. Nigeria is a country with large fuel wood deficit zones mainly in the north, while in and some southern areas production exceeds consumption. These areas supply the deficit zones. Therefore, a balance has to be struck on a national level. According to the FRA Country Report Nigeria 2005 (FAO 2005) wood fuel consumption in the year 2005 was 72’710’935 m3. Applying a conversion factor of 0.7 from volume to weight, this corresponds to 50’8976’54 t.

National per head consumption. Dividing the nation wood fuel consumption through the number of inhabitants, which is 135’031’000 in 2007 (International Data Base, IDB), we get 376 kg/person/year. This latter figure has to be taken as the baseline consumption in the project area, and not then lower figure derived from a range of household surveys mentioned in the Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP, page 77) and in the Project Idea Note. The lower figure given in the REMP apparently corre­sponds to urban household, which use additional energy sources, like kerosin, gas, charcoal and electricity for cooking. Consumption figures slightly over 1 kg have are mentioned in many other publications. Rex Aruofor mentions 256 kg/Person/year for urban households and 393 kg/Person/year for rural house­holds. Von Maydell (“Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel” 1986, 1990), writing about Burkina Faso, counts with 1 kg of fuel wood for cooking alone. “Within villages, however, approximately the same quantity will have to be added for small-scale industries”.

Consumption in Kaduna State. If we multiply the per head consumption derived from “FRA 2005” figures with the number of inhabitants of Kaduna State, which is 6’066’562, we get a consumption of 2’281’027 t/y.

National annual sustainably harvestable volume. Data on the annual increment of woody biomass (yield) are lacking. Estimations may be based on the “Growing Stock” (comparable to the “capital” in banking) on the one hand, and on a rule of thumb about the annual yield or increment (the interest rate) mentioned by V. Maydell in his book. He reckons that the annual increment is about 2 % of the “Growing Stock”. The latter is given in the “FRA 2005 country report Nigeria” (table 5.3.1, estimation and forecasting) as 1’235’000’000 m3 from natural forests If we apply the rule given by v. Maydell, we arrive at a yield of 24’700’000 m3, corresponding to 17’290’000 t. Upon harvest, however, about 16 % of this amount will be used as “Industrial Roundwood”, leaving 14523600 t available for fuel. As we have seen above, consumption is largely in excess of production, amounting to 50’897’654 t; the annual increment available for use as fuel covers only 28,5 % of actual consumption in Nigeria. These figures are only indicative; as Forest Re­serves, Game Reserves and National Parks, which should be off limits for wood fuel harvesting, are included. On the other hand, production in plantations is not included, because the rule of thumb given by v. Maydell may not be applicable, due to higher produc­tivity in plantations. But the overall contribution of plantations to wood production is small.

Balance of yield and demand in Kaduna State. There is no break-down of the “Growing Stock” down to the level of individual States available in the “FRA 2005 country report Nigeria”. We try to get hold of data from the Kaduna State forestry service. In the meantime we apply the above percentages which apply at the national level. This means that the consumption of 2’281’027 t/y in Kaduna State is covered by a contribution of 650889 t stemming from renewable biomass (16 %) from in or outside the state territory, while 84 % corresponding to 1’630’138 t are non-renewable biomass (NRB).


Essay: (pdf 70 kb)

Wood fuel, Households and Climate in Kaduna State/Nigeria

by Paul Krämer