Why forests

Energy Security

Did you know that wood provides energy for more than two billion people around the world?

South of the Sahara, it provides over 80% of the energy needed; in Asia it’s almost the same and in Latin America it’s 70%1.

You cannot blame these communities for using the cheapest and most easily accessible energy source. But this has negative impacts on health, the environment and the climate.

Finding alternative fuels, or more efficient ways of burning wood, will help manage this growing environmental problem – and reduce the negative impacts on the health of each community.

Funding alternatives to deforestation is a key component of Ecosphere’s work.

Renewable – but not forever

Another issue is that an increasing population – especially amongst the world’s poorest communities – has led to a significant increase in the demand for wood. And this is leading to greater deforestation.

Almost 50% of the deforestation in Africa has been caused by demand for it. And burning wood in the home creates unhealthy smoke for families (especially children) and releases lots of carbon into the atmosphere.

It’s hard for us to imagine that simply burning wood could be a serious health hazard. Yet the World Health Organisation estimates that four million people die prematurely every year simply from using solid fuels, such as wood, in their homes.

Converting wood to charcoal is a big business amongst the poor. It’s the process of removing water from wood, so that it burns at a higher temperature. But it’s very bad business for forests. Current production of charcoal in African countries is rapidly degrading theirs to an alarming degree.

But if this process was carried out sustainably, it could generate up to US$12 billion per year in income to the continent by 20302.

Water power

Hydropower is the world’s biggest supplier of renewable energy and in 2016, it provided over 16% of the world’s electricity3.

Many countries are looking to it to help them reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. But continued deforestation and the subsequent effects of climate change are altering the environment and making this goal harder to achieve.

Trees create rain and forests cycle water around the globe. Read more about the relationship between water and forests here.

So reducing forested land cover disrupts the natural water cycle. It also increases the surface temperatures. This alters the rainfall patterns, meaning there is a less predictable amount of water in the rivers to power dams. This affects the viability of even building a dam in the first place.

It’s true that degraded land can actually increase the amount of water running into rivers. But this run-off comes at a huge cost, because without the tree roots binding the earth together, the water is filled with soil and mud. This pollutes the rivers and clogs up the dams, reducing their capacity to create energy, and shortening their life, as well as hugely increasing the costs of providing clean drinking water.

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Make change happen

We are working hard to bring in new investment to help restore degraded lands and protect forests, while helping local communities live more sustainable livelihoods.

Find out more about the work we do all over the world.

Helping to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy

[1] World Agroforestry Centre (2015) Trees for wood energy and land restoration. Accessed April 4, 2017

[2] Neufeldt, H., Langford, K., Fuller, J., Iiyama, M., Dobie, P. 2015. From transition fuel to viable energy source: improving sustainability in the sub-Saharan charcoal sector. ICRAF Working Paper No. 196. Nairobi, World Agroforestry Centre.

[3] World Energy Council. Hydropower. Accessed April 4, 2017