Switching to Alternative Cooking Fuels, such as Biogas, Offers the most Impactful and Immediate Way to Address Forest Cover Loss in Malawi
It is estimated that 96% of Malawians rely on biomass (firewood and charcoal) for cooking, thereby increasingly driving depletion of forest cover across the country, especially in communities that are close to main urban centers. Increasing population has added approximately 4.8 million more people as users of firewood and charcoal for cooking. Electricity access remains at 11% in the country. This means majority are not connected to the grid and rely on charcoal for cooking and heating. This lucrative charcoal and fuelwood market drives deforestation. In addition to erratic supply, increasing electricity tariffs have meant that more households are turning to biomass as their fuel of choice as it is perceived to be cheaper and readily available on the market. Despite reported high adoption of alternative cooking fuels such as Biogas in most sub-Saharan African countries, uptake in Malawi has been stagnant. A study conducted by Malawi University of Science and Technology in partnership with Green Impact Technologies revealed Tsangano market has high potential for Biogas generation where a 150m³ digester could be developed. There are various similar markets in Malawi such as Jenda, Bembeke, Lizulu with great potential for production of Biogas for cooking as an alternative to charcoal. Further, most cities and district towns generate huge market wastes which are carelessly dumped, creating wastes problems. In support of the National Charcoal Strategy, pillar 4, which calls for switch to alternative cooking fuels, this policy brief urges government, the donor community and private sector to support increased uptake of Biogas Systems as an alternative cooking fuel by creating a robust environment on its regulations, importation and sales, increasing awareness on its safety and use and developing a commercially viable supply and distribution network. Knowing that the majority of low income urban and rural populations would continue to rely on biomass, the brief further argues for an increased cost effective production and promotion of sustainable charcoal and increased adoption of fuel efficient stoves.