Charcoal production in sub-Saharan drylands: an integrative approach

Authors: Christoph Bergmann*, Heidelberg University, Maike Petersen, SAI | Heidelberg University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Africa, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: Charcoal production; land degradation; energy landscapes; sub-Saharan Africa; Kenya
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Charcoal ranks amongst the most commercialized but least regulated commodities in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite its prevalence as an energy source for cooking and heating, the environmental and livelihood impacts of charcoal production are poorly understood so far. This research deficit is amplified by widespread negative views of this activity as a poverty-driven cause of deforestation and land degradation. However, the charcoal-degradation nexus is apparently more complicated, not least because the extraction of biomass from already degraded woodlands can also be interpreted as an appropriate option under given management regimes. In order to better calibrate existing research agendas to site-specific geographies of charcoal production, we present a case study from Central Pokot, northwestern Kenya. Based on the assumption that the line between sustainable land management and degradation in Sub-Saharan drylands is highly variable and relational, our study combines the knowledge input of local stakeholders with a multitemporal Landsat change detection. Our integrated methodological approach offers new and grounded insights into the disparate processes and outcomes through which these energy landscapes are constantly (trans-)formed.

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