Charcoal ban doesn’t stop smugglers, hurts economy

Reducing reliance on charcoal is a good thing, but an outright ban on sustainable businesses won’t stop charcoal smugglers. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Reducing reliance on charcoal is a good thing but an outright ban on its movement does more harm than good, say advocates of sustainable charcoal production.

Last Friday, March 3, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Jumanne Maghembe banned the transport of wood and charcoal outside of the district of origin.

Maghembe says while statistics show Dar es Salaam consumes nearly 70 percent of charcoal produced in the country, he believes less than 30 percent is actually used in Dar; the rest is illegally exported to Zanzibar and Asia, he says.

“We feel that the ban as it is currently being implemented will make things worse,” says Elida Fundi, advocacy officer with MJUMITA (Mtandao wa Jamii wa Usimamizi wa Misitu Tanzania), a sustainable forest conservation network which operates villages in Kilosa and Morogoro districts.

“Any charcoal ban must also protect and support sustainable alternatives.”
“The ban on transporting charcoal between districts will prevent these villages from being able to sell sustainable charcoal,” says Fundi, who notes that the main driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion.

Charcoal smugglers, who produce unsustainably and move their product illegally now have the market all to themselves, experts say.

“Illegally harvested wood charcoal that enters Dar es Salaam has made it difficult for sustainable alternatives,” says Dennis Tessier of Appropriate Rural Technology Institute Tanzania (ARTI-TZ.)

Tessier says the the problem of deforestation needs to come down to dialogue between stakeholders to find alternatives to the vital industry which employs tens of thousands of people, says Tessier.

“Any charcoal ban must also protect and support sustainable alternatives, such as charcoal briquettes [made from agricultural waste.] The more sustainable alternatives supported the easier it will be to convince people to make the transition.”

Late last year, the Energy and Minerals ministry declared charcoal use would be ‘a thing of the past‘ by 2025.

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About the Author

Daniel Hayduk
Daniel is Dar Post's news director. When not in the newsroom, he spends his days helping NGOs across the continent find their creative side.