Recherche forestière et Agroforestière
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A Paper Presented in the Workshop on Alternative Sources of Energy in Rwanda Organised by IRST, 19 – 20 May 2005, CENTRE IWACU, KABUSUNZU By Jean Damascene NDAYAMBAJE Researcher, Forestry and Agroforestry Research Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Rwanda (ISAR)


Butare, May 2005


Agroforestry for wood energy production in Rwanda
1 Introduction Energy is crucial for the daily life of people in Rwanda and for the development of the country. More than 98% of energy for cooking is drawn from firewood, charcoal and vegetable materials. Firewood alone accounts for more than 84% (MINECOFIN, 2002). Almost all firewood used in Rwanda is locally produced and it used for domestic use. Unfortunately, the production and exploitation of trees for firewood has not been done in sustainable manner giving a rise to a threat to forests and other wooded lands. The population of Rwanda is facing a critical firewood shortage for cooking and heating. The growth in human population is far outpacing the growth of trees – not surprising when the average user consumes as much as 3.7 tons m3 per year (World Bank, 2000). The amount of wood consumed for cooking in households, prisons and schools represents about 90% of all firewood consumed in Rwanda. Institutional firewood consumption (the consumption of firewood by tea industry, brick making, roofing tiles, sugar industry, restaurant and bakeries) accounts for 155 550 m3 per year. The current consumption rate of firewood is in sharp contrast with the resource base. The plantation forests are estimated to cover 283 000 ha while there are about 221 200 ha of natural forests. Trees on farms in the context of agroforestry are rarely estimated albeit their overarching role in meeting communities needs in wood for various uses and ecological functions. Most of the natural forests in Rwanda have legal status of parks, with restricted use excluding wood exploitation. Existing forest plantations give low yields 7 - 8 m3/ha/year due to poor management. Using the average yield of 12 m3 par annum, the 283 000 ha will yield 3 396 000 m3 of firewood. There are about 1.8 households in Rwanda. Based on the assumption that individual household uses 5kg of firewood for cooking, 9 million kg of firewood, equivalent to 15 000 m3 (1m3 of firewood weighs approx. 600 kg) of firewood are consumed daily. The current annual requirement is about 5.5 million m3/year. Hence available forest plantations could be used up completely with outstanding shortfall of nearly 2.1 million m3. With good forest management, yield of 20 to 30 m3/ha/year could be achieved. Using an average of 25 m3/ha/year, the yield on existing land could be brought to over 7 Million m3/ha/year. If the consumption of firewood for cooking cannot be reduced drastically and continued to be sourced from existing forest plantations, the forests will completely be used up within the shortest time. As very limited land for afforestation is available, options for firewood production include the improvement of the management of existing forests, the production of fast growing tree species on farms, the use of commercial kilns and the use of energy saving stoves. In the face of the global concern over wood deficit, the rate of cutting down trees in the country to provide for basic human necessities in the country is alarming. Firewood

4 problem is enormous and is reflected in the rising price of charcoal, even more rapidly than the price of imported fuel. To respond to scarcity of firewood, gathering wood is now an entire day’s task in many parts of the country, a burden to women and children. In the absence of firewood, anything that burns is used (crop residues, twigs, barks, etc.). Hence, we must look upon trees as resources that, if effectively managed, could alleviate the problem of firewood scarcity. There is no single magic solution to firewood shortage, but some mingle of fuel conservation, tree planting and new technologies could certainly relax its stranglehold on our country. Agroforestry, defined as a system of optimising the benefit from tree-crop-livestock interactions, provides an opportunity towards the solution to the whole firewood crisis in Rwanda. The immediate logical response to the firewood shortage, one that will have many incidental ecological and socio-economic benefits, is to plant more trees on farms, along roads, in shelterbelts and on used lands throughout the rural areas. For most agro-ecological regions, fast growing tree/shrub species that can be managed in agroforestry systems have been selected by the Agroforestry Research implemented by Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute (ISAR) in partnership with the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) since 1988. However, questions arise when selecting species suitable for deliberate cultivation as firewood tree species that can be associated with crops. Emphasis here is on species suitable for growing firewood for domestic use to a larger extent and for commercial purposes to a lesser extent. Most of the tree species managed in agroforestry systems are either trees or shrubs that can meet many requirements for smallholders. Most prominent features of such species include: - Multipurpose trees or shrubs (MPTs) that have other uses (poles, stakes for climbing beans, fodder, green manure, fruit, etc.) in addition to providing fuel; - Tree species that adapt well to different sites, that establish easily and that require little care; - Tree species for problem environments as steep hill slopes, low-nutrient or toxic soils, arid zones, etc. - Nitrogen fixing ability; - Rapid growth; - Ability to produce wood with high calorific value that burns without sparks or toxic smoke; and - Ability to grow successfully in a wide range of environments, including different altitudes, soil types, rainfall regimes, amounts of sunlight and terrains.

5 In this paper, a few multipurpose trees that can be managed in the farming systems as biomass grown for firewood are described. The species are recommended owing their adaptability to different areas of Rwanda, their calorific value and biomass production. A few Eucalyptus species, with agroforestry potential, are also described in this paper.


Suitable tree and shrubs species for firewood production
Firewood species for the highlands

Acacia mearnsii The wood of Black wattle is specifically grown for firewood. It makes good firewood, with a specific gravity of 0.5-0.7 and has a calorific potential of 3 500 – 4 000 kcal per kg. Acacia mearnsii is fast growing and yields 10-25 m3/ha/year. Its wood dries quickly and split easily, both useful characteristics for firewood production for domestic use. Alnus nepalensis A. nepalensis is a very fast-growing tree species that tolerate both shade and poorly drained soils. Though not a legume species, it is nitrogen-fixing species. The wood of the species is very light (specific gravity 0.32 – 0.37). The wood dries quickly and burns evenly but rather quickly. The tree coppices but successful regrowth depends on season. Trees of A. nepalensis grow large and quickly. They can reach 30 m in height and 30 –50 cm in diameter. Growth in diameter increases by about 2 cm/year. Alnus acuminata A. acuminata has a specific gravity of 0.5 – 0.6. It has good, even burning characteristics and has been long used for firewood in its native region (Central and South America). The tree coppices naturally. It is fast growing as it can grow to 25 m in height with a diameter of 20 cm in 10 years. The annual yield of wood for fuel is about 10-15 m3/ha. Mimosa scabrella Mimosa scabrella produces high-quality firewood; however, the charcoal produces a large amount of ash. M. scabrella is a fast-growing tree. In 14 months it grows to 5 m; in 2 years, 8-9 m; and in 3 years it sometimes reaches a height of 15 m. woodlots of M. scabrella can be harvested on rotations as short as 3 years. Trees for firewood are best planted at spacings of 2 x 2 or 3 x 3 m and harvested on 3-7 year rotations. Chamaecytisus palmensis When allowed to grow, thick branches provide fuelwood that burns with intense heat. At a planting density of 1 000 trees/ha, annual yields of 15-20 t/ha can be expected.

6 Melia azedarach The specific gravity of its wood is about 0.66, with a calorific value of 5 043 – 5 176 kcal per kg. Under good conditions, Melia azedarach grows fast. It may grow 1.70 m in height each year. Trees are grown on short rotations. They regenerate readily from stump sprouts or root suckers. 2.2 Firewood species for the midlands

Grevillea robusta The wood is tough, elastic, and moderately dense (specific gravity = 0.57). Trees coppice poorly but can be pollarded and do reseed themselves readily. G. robusta is popular for firewood and charcoal. The calorific value of sapwood is about 4800 kcal/kg, while that of heartwood is 4950 kcal/kg. Moderate to fast growing, G. robusta reaches annual height and diameter increments of at least 2 m and 2 cm, respectively, during the first few years in row planting on farms. Annual height increments of 3 m have been observed at the most favourable sites. G. robusta responds well to pollarding, lopping and pruning. A plant density of 800-1200 trees/ha is recommended for plantations. For firewood production, rotations of 10-20 years are applied and annual volume increments of 5-15 m 3/ha may be expected. A growth reduction after 20 years has been reported. Calliandra calothyrsus C. calothyrsus is a good firewood species because it is fast growing, multi-stemmed, easy to regenerate and thornless. One year after planting, annual wood yields have been reported in the order of 15-40 t/ha with annual coppice harvests continuing for 10-20 years. Yields from C. calothyrsus are extremely good in coppice; after being cut at 50 cm from the ground, 3 m high coppices are formed in only 6 months rotation. The rootstock is very vigorous and will sprout readily. For firewood, optimum spacing is 1 x 2 m with a minimum of 1 x 1 m. Returns from charcoal production are higher than fuelwood because the wood is a quick burner. C. calothyrsus can produce 14 t/ha of charcoal annually. Calliandra has a calorific value of 4 500 – 4 750 kcal/kg. Leucaena diversifolia L. diversifolia is an excellent firewood and charcoal species with a specific gravity of 0.450.55 and a high calorific value of 4200 – 4600 kcal/kg. Wood burns steadily with little smoke, few sparks and produces less than 1% ash. The tree makes excellent charcoal with a heating value of 29 mJ/kg and good recovery values (25-30%). L. diversifolia coppices vigorously and responds well to pollarding and pruning. Coppiced stems sprout 5-15 branches, depending on the diameter of the cut surface, and 1-4 stems dominate after a year of regrowth. Wood yields from L. diversifolia over short (3-5 year) rotations compare favourably with other Leucaena species, ranging from 3-4 m in height/year and 10-60 cubic m/ha a year.

7 Eucalyptus globulus The wood of E. globulus is heavy (specific gravity, 0.8 – 1.0). The specific gravity of airdry wood is about 4.800 kcal per kg. The wood has good burning qualities and used for firewood and charcoal. The tree coppices vigorously. It shows remarkable early growth in height on favourable sites. Annual wood production may be as high as 20 m3/ha per year. The rotations used depend principally on the site and the desired product. E. globulus is commonly grown on rather short rotations of 8-12 years or 10-15 years to produce fuelwood. Jacaranda mimosifolia With a specific gravity of 0.45 – 0.72, J. mimosifolia provides useful firewood. It is fast growing on good sites and reaches up to 3 m in height per year in the first 2 years and over 1 m/year over the first 9 years. Established plants respond well to coppicing. J. mimosifolia can produce 22 m3/ha/year. Sesbania sesban S. sesban is popular for firewood and charcoal because it produces a high woody biomass in a short time, which, although soft, is relatively smokeless, quick kindling and hot burning. The calorific yield for a 3-year-old tree is approximately 4 350 kcal/kg. One of the major advantages of Sesbania over other forage trees and shrubs is its rapid early growth rate, which can be exploited by intercropping it with other slower establishing species for earlier yields. Sesbania can attain a height of 4-5 m in six months. It withstands three cutting frequencies only, with many branches arising from the main stem below cutting height. Yields have ranged from 4 to 12 t/ha dry matter per year, depending on location. Cutting height can also influence yield, with cutting heights of 50 -75 cm favouring plant survival and productivity. 2.3 Firewood species for the lowlands

Gliricidia sepium Predominantly used as a fallow species in semi-arid environments, G. sepium has a hard and a heavy wood used for fuel. Although not tall, the tree produces much branch wood and coppice easily. Its calorific value is 4 900 kcal per kg. Senna sp. Both S. siamea and S. spectabilis have small sized, dense, dark-coloured wood (specific gravity 0.6 – 0.8), which is excellent fuel, although it burns with a lot of smokes. The trees coppice readily and continue yielding well for four to five rotations. Annual production can be as much as 15 m3 per ha.

8 Azadirachta indica A. indica can be cultivated for firewood and poles production. The calorific value of its wood is high. The wood is relatively heavy with an average specific gravity of 0.68. The tree coppices freely and early growth from coppice is faster than growth from seedlings. First rotation crop can yield 13-17 m3 per hectare per year. Casuarina cunninghamiana An excellent firewood species that burns well and retains ashes for a long time. Casuarina gives a charcoal yield of 33.6% and an ash content of 1.9% with an estimated fuel value of 4 870 kcal/kg. C. cunninghamiana is a long-lived, relatively fast-growing tree with average height increments of 1-2 m/year. It displays fairly good coppicing ability when young, and older trees are capable of producing root suckers. Casuarina equisitifolia The highly regarded wood ignites readily even when green, and ashes retain heat for long periods. It has been called ‘the best firewood in the world’ and also produces high-quality charcoal. Calorific value of the wood is 5 000 kcal/kg and that of the charcoal exceeds 7 000 kcal/kg. A planting density of 2 500 stems/ha is commonly used but some farmers plant up to 8 000-10 000 stems/ha when fuelwood and small poles are the required product. It coppices only to a limited extent and best results are obtained when cut young. C. equisetifolia has a life span of 40-50 years and displays fast early growth. Under favourable conditions, early growth rates are about 2 m/year in height and the trees have good form in cultivation. On favourable sites, it can yield an annual increment of 15 m3/ha of wood in 10 years. Acacia species Many Acacia species, both local and exotic, are grown specifically for firewood and are fast growing. They have high calorific value and are nitrogen-fixing species. Examples of some Acacia species suitable for firewood and that are adapted to the semi arid zones of Rwanda are given below. A. mangium has a calorific value of 4 800-4 900 kcal/kg, provides good quality charcoal and is suitable for the manufacture of charcoal briquettes and artificial carbon; The stems of A. albida are used as fuelwood and their calorific value is estimated at 19.741 kJ/kg of dry wood. Charcoal yields are as low as 17%; A. tortilis starts producing fuelwood at the age of 8-18 years, at the rate of 50 kg/tree. Its fast growth and good coppicing behaviour, coupled with the high calorific value for its wood (4400 kcal/kg), make it suitable for firewood and charcoal;


9 The wood of A. holosericea is an excellent fuel that can readily be converted to charcoal. The calorific value of wood is estimated at 4 670 kcal/kg and of charcoal 7 536 kcal/kg. Early rapid growth makes A. holosericea a highly productive fuelwood source. Trees 4 years old can yield up to 13 t/ha;

Albizia lebbeck A. lebbeck is an excellent fuelwood species with a specific gravity of 0.55 – 0.60 and a calorific value of 5 200 kcal/g. A. It coppices well, responds to pollarding, pruning and lopping, and will produce root suckers if the roots are exposed. Typical spacing is 3 x 3 m for fuelwood. Woodlot for firewood production spaced at 3 x 3 m clear felled on a 10-year rotation produce about 50 m3/ha of stacked fuelwood. Eucalyptus camaldulensis When fully dried, the wood is an outstanding fuel. It is moderately dense (specific gravity=0.6), with a fuel value of 4, 800 kcal/kg. E. camaldulensis grows very fast. Mean annual growth increments of 2 m in height and 2 cm in diameter can be maintained for the first 10 years. On good sites, annual wood yield is 17-25 m3/ha but on poor dry sites, it drops off to 2 and 11 m3 per ha at rotations of 14-15 years. E. citriodora Its hard and heavy wood (specific gravity = 0.75 – 1.1) burns steadily. It charcoal has an ash content of 1-2%. E. citriodora is fast growing, typically increasing in height by 3 m per year for the first several years and growing even faster in the best sites. Harvested at an 8-year rotation, it produces about 15 m3 per ha per year. Eucalyptus tereticornis E. tereticornis is popular and widely used for firewood and charcoal. The wood is hard, heavy and strong with a specific gravity of 0.75 and higher. The tree produces first class fuelwood, which also makes good charcoal. Coppice regeneration has been widely used and it can be done three to four times on a 10-year rotation. E. tereticornis can yield 20-25 m3 per ha/year for the first 15 years and thereafter the yield will drops to 10-15 m3 per ha, unless the trees are coppiced.


Firewood management

Currently, people are encouraged throughout the whole country to grow trees on their farms to meet their own requirements as well as to protect the land on which they and their livestock live. Firewood production in integrated agroforestry systems is appropriate to this philosophy. Using appropriate species on appropriate sites and niches, wood energy can be produced

10 like any farm crop. Rwandan farmers are already familiar with the growing of Eucalyptus woodlots on land unsuitable for agriculture, particularly for building poles and firewood. Although the cultivation of tree species for wood energy production does not demand continuous professional supervision, strong services are required to provide seeds and advice for getting the trees well established and managed. Good silvicultural practices for increased firewood production and optimising the benefits from the tree-crop interface are needed. In farming systems, trees for firewood production can be established in farm boundaries, on contours, scattered on farms or as rotational woodlots. Correct spacing of planted trees is vital to integrated production. If properly managed, fuelwood species can be selfrenewing. Most tree species have high coppicing abilities and managed on short rotations. The timing will vary with the quality of the soil, the species used, temperature, moisture available and intensity of cultivation. Rotations of 3 to 5 years are feasible for most shrubs in the three agro-ecological regions of Rwanda, especially for those species that coppice well such as Calliandra calothyrsus, Leucaena diversifolia and Senna spectabilis. The ability to coppice or grow rapidly from stumps is important for firewood species. With allows repeated harvests without the cost and effort for replanting seedlings each time. Moreover, because of the multiple roles of the species, other products can be obtained (fodder, stakes, green manure) in case firewood problem is not an issue. Most woods burn, but there are properties that differentiate their relative value for fuel. Density is the most general measure of wood burning quality. The heavier the wood (when dry), the greater its calorific value. Hence proper choice of species is critical for firewood crop establishment. 4


Currently, the major challenge is to alleviate the growing shortage of wood. To this end, the planting of multipurpose trees and shrubs is vital, requiring combined effort of research institutions, government services, communities, private sector and NGOs. Some activities to be undertaken sequentially or concurrently include: • Searching and reducing the wasteful use of available fuel through:  Harvesting and use of available wood resources without waste;  Use of fuel-efficient stoves;  Encouragement of the use of alternative energy sources such as biogas and solar heat; Improving the management of existing firewood sources through controlled harvesting intensity to preserve forest productivity Intensifying firewood production on farms Testing tree species for firewood crops in all the agro-ecological zones of Rwanda. Evaluations should include optimising growth of trees of suitable fuelwood species, test planting of best local firewood species and selected exotic species.

• • •


Firewood crops can be managed in integrated natural resources management technology. The system consists of producing firewood in the farming systems. With this system, fastgrowing tree species of acceptable calorific value identified by research are planted on contour strips, on farm boundaries, etc. to produce firewood. Other benefits from trees include control of erosion, fodder production and soil fertility improvement. Management of firewood crops on farms could help slow deforestation caused by firewood harvesting.

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