FAO - FLEGT Project

Preventing Deforestation: Understanding Timber and Fuelwood Markets in Sierra Leone Energy for Opportunity (EFO) is starting an energy revolution, bringing clean renewable solar energy to Sierra Leone and further afield in West Africa. EFO provides energy to disadvantaged rural communities, trains students about how and why to use solar energy and promotes it as an appropriate form of energy to build a positive future for West Africa. In order to expand its work in other energy sectors, EFO needs up to date statistics on energy consumption in Sierra Leone which is largely fuelwood dependent. To address this need EFO has recently (April 2011) started a seven-month study on the timber and fuelwood and timber markets in Sierra Leone in order to reveal patterns of energy use in the country as well as understand their contribution to land cover change. This project is being funded through the FAO’s, Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Support (FLEGTS) programme and considering no major research has been undertaken on forest cover in Sierra Leone since the 1980s and 1990s and no in-depth research on the fuelwood market has been conducted since the 1980s, this an important knowledge gap to fill. The key objective of the proposed research is to build a greater understanding of the nature and impacts of domestic timber and fuelwood harvesting and marketing patterns as well as issues surrounding their regulation in Northern Sierra Leone and Freetown. EFO will also identify the household energy consumption needs and patterns of Sierra Leoneans which is currently heavily dependent on fuelwood. In making accurate, independent information available it is hoped that the social and ecological dynamics of forest resource management will be improved here. Existing research focuses exclusively on the Freetown, whereas this project will adopt a phased approach to produce a national map of fuelwood harvesting and trade, in Northern Sierra Leone and Freetown to begin with, followed by a second phase in Southern and Eastern Sierra Leone. The project will also focus on the dynamics of the domestic timber trade in the key ecological areas surrounding Outamba-Kilimi National park, the Gola Forest Reserve and the Western Areas Peninsula Reserve. EFO is dedicated to capacity building in Sierra Leone and has integrated a strong capacity building component into this project. Nine research assistants are currently undergoing training in research methodologies as part of an intensive recruitment process before final selections and fieldwork begins. They will be involved in all aspects of data collection throughout the project. Their skills development is critical to capacity building in the area of forest management in Sierra Leone. The research and training is being led by Energy For Opportunity’s head researcher, Mr. Hiemstra-van der Horst, a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne in Australia, who has significant field experience and has written several scholarly publications around fuelwood and timber production and consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa. After an initial student training period, the research will begin a regionally phased approach in the collection of data. There will be a rapid national assessment, followed by an in-depth study in Northern Sierra Leone and Freetown. EFO will subsequently apply for funding to complete the research in the southern and Eastern Provinces. Senior EFO staff, namely Simon Willans, EFO’s Executive Director, Greg Hiemstra-van der Horst and Paul Munro, a PhD candidate and co-founder of EFO, will oversee key aspects of data gathering, will provide critical analysis, organise the collected data and develop reports and publications.

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