SO we’ve discovered natural gas in East Africa – what a discovery! Now the Government says that it will install liquefied petroleum and compressed natural gas plants in all public institutions to reduce the use of charcoal and firewood for domestic cooking and space heating.
Mr January Makamba, Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office, says this is part of the Government’s plan to conserve forests, now overwhelmed by deforestation. Currently, we are mowing down forests to supply fuel to 90 per cent of our people.
And, most of these people are not planting trees to replace what they burn! Tanzania is home to one of the world’s largest tree covers in the world, but it’s also one of the most at risk of losing it all.
Most of us still rely on wood as fuel for just about every requirement of our energy needs. Something must give, as they say, and that something must be wood fuel conservation. It has been practically proved that it’s possible to cook a family meal with less wood than we burn today.
With the discovery of natural gas reserves now, we should be talking about something else–how to combine natural gas and wood fuel in domestic cooking and space heating efficiently. And, we’re truly rich, indeed.
It’s estimated that our forest areas cover nearly 50 million hectares of land –48.1 million hectares of land to be exact– which is larger than the State of California in the United States, but reports show that we clear an average of nearly 400 hectares every year.
Indeed, our schools, prisons and other public institutions need to shift to renewable, and smarter, energy sources. As education institutions, they should be setting the pace toward less forestry use.
In this country, women still walk long distancs to fetch firewood–which they most get ‘free’ because all they need is a ‘panga’ or axe to chop down what they need. However, there’s always this misplaced metaphor that women are responsible for deforesting our woods.
Nothing could be farther from a lie; the women just get what they need to cook our meals. But it’s the men who trade in charcoal that do most of the deforestation we see across this country. So with the discovery natural gas, and with requisite good arrangements, could our mothers in villages get access to cheap–and cleaner–cooking devices? We hope so.