In Zambia, data on deforestation, emissions hidden in the ashes

12 January 2015

BOGOR, Indonesia—In terms of its value to daily lives and livelihoods across Africa, charcoal is black gold.

But as crucial as it is for cooking for millions of rural Africans, charcoal comes at a cost: the wood burned to create it comes from forests, generating substantial carbon emissions.

Data on exactly how much has been hard to come by, but now there are hopes to change that.
In a recent report on Zambia’s progress in an international scheme to reduce carbon emissions through avoided deforestation (REDD+), researchers in the southern African country have highlighted just how much data is lacking.

“The main reason why we don’t have a lot of data on charcoal is that we have not really closely studied the production system,” said Davison Gumbo, a Zambia-based scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Without hard facts, every attempt to calculate the carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere from southern Africa’s charcoal industry is educated guesswork at best.

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