One of the most pressing challenges in global natural resources management is to satisfy the increasing demand for fuelwood by private households. In many regions consumption of fuelwood (firewood and charcoal) by far exceeds natural regeneration. Consumption of energy wood is reckoned third in causing worldwide deforestation, after land conversion for agriculture and infrastructure. Worldwide, thousands of deaths every year are attributed to lack of access to proper cooking devices. Mainly children and elderly suffer from respiratory and other disesases as a consequence of inhaling indoor smoke.

In the developing world, an estimated 2.4 billion people depend on biomass for their energy supplies. Population growth will spur this figure in the coming decade. For most poor, alternative energy sources to fuelwod, such as electricity, gas or cerosine, will remain unaffordable. Widespread urbanization goes along with more extensive charcoal consumption – which, due to energy loss in the carbonization process, triples the corresponding raw wood demand.

Contrary to the widely entertained misconception that portrays wood energy as technologically backward and a chief culprit behind deforestation, ECO Consult has long since regarded wood energy as an intricate value chain that, provided it is managed right, offers a wide range of environmental and socio-economic benefits that create new momentum for sustainable rural development. Sustainable production of fuelwood and highly efficient, advanced technology for its conversion to charcoal and final combustion are pivotal to this end.

On the side of consumption, disseminating and supporting improved stove and e.g. insulation technologies have progressed. ECO consultants help secure context adaptation and low-cost sustenance of stoves, conduct training and information campaigns and assist in dissemination and monitoring.

ECO assists in a number of areas, such as:

  • devising holistic approaches to the all-round modernization of wood-energy value chains (e.g. planning and implementation of supply enhancement and demand management)
  • transitioning from non-regulated exploitation to sustainable production
  • policy, legal institutional advice (improvements of the regulatory, institutional and fiscal frameworks)
  • socio-economic assessments, economic valuation
  • computer-based model simulations, GIS application
  • capacity building - training - facilitation.

Related projects


PGM-E: Component Decentral management of natural resources Better off with green charcoal: Cleaner combustion, higher turnovers and more resilient soils are some of the impacts ECO has effected so far in the frame of the GIZ/KfW German-Madagascan Environmental Programme. More...


Sustainable woodfuel supplies

Biomass Energy Strategies (BEST) describe key interventions needed to achieve sustainable biomass use, on the supply and demand side. Issued by the European Union Energy Initiative and GIZ, the paper pleads for deliberate action in support of optimized, sustainable production of biomass energy. Among others, ECO's Dr. Steve Sepp and Dr. Stefan Mann assess options for improved kiln technologies and new funding mechanisms. (1.23 MB)

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Dr. Steve Sepp

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