Firewood consumption pattern in rural household in Nepal

Prakash Kumar Sah


Firewood is a vital source of energy. It plays important role in the energy supply of many developing countries. Biomass accounts for 35 percent of primary energy consumption in developing countries and 14 percent of the final energy consumption in the world. Out of 4 billion m3 of wood used annually by the world’s population, about 55 percent is used directly as fuel wood or charcoal to meet daily energy needs for heating and cooking purposes, mainly in developing countries.

Firewood alone accounts for 7 percent of the total energy consumption in the world. Thus, biomass is one of the important services that forestry sector provides to mankind besides wide range of tangible and intangible benefits. In Nepal, anthropogenic disturbance for supply of timber, firewood and transformation of forest into agriculture land and human settlement became a topic for sustainable development.

In the context of climate change, biomass is considered an important source or sink of CO2, the most abundant of the GHGs. IPCC estimates that forestry and land-use change accounts for nearly 20 percent of global CO2 emissions.

Nepalese protected areas (PAs) are the bio-diversity rich areas and considered to have greatest ecosystem and rich in species diversity. The livelihood of the farming communities of in the country is linked with the wide range of resources obtained from forests. Particularly in the rural areas the dependence on firewood is the main source of energy. It has the potential devastating role in the forest clearance and environmental degradation. Firewood is the major domestic fuel in the rural areas of Nepal and rural farmers who form 80 percent of the total population of the country.

Among diverse range of resources, firewood is one of the important resources that forest provides to rural agricultural households in Nepal. It has been estimated that 77 percent of the Nepal’s total energy is derived from woody plant biomass in the form of firewood.

Besides firewood, other biomass sources are agricultural residues and cattle dung. Of the total conventional energy consumption of 356.7 M GJ in the residential sector in 2008/09, the share of firewood, agricultural residues and animal dung stand at 86.6 percent, 3.7 percent, and 6.5 percent respectively. Similarly, in the industrial sector, out of total 13.4 M GJ, firewood contributed for 5.4 percent followed by agriculture residues with 10 percent. Nonetheless, in the commercial sector that consumed 5.1 M GJ of energy, firewood shared a total of 36 percent .Trees play an important role in providing firewood to the rural households.

Humans’ increasing demand of firewood, fodder and grazing land and recreational pressure are the eminent threats to forest. Forest is modified by plantation as well. The forest is continuously influenced by human beings due to recreational visit by the urban dwellers, visitors, picnickers and others.

Forests provide basic needs to rural communities, clean water and atmosphere, and in work as recreational sites for tourism. It also helps in-situ conservation of biological diversity. There is plenty of literature on the consumption pattern of firewood in rural communities of developing countries.

To the scribe’s knowledge, not even few of them have explicitly examined the dependency of those households on other traditional sources of energy which make major contribution in rural household energy supply. A large part of the community forest area is covered by forest and pasture land. People are residing along the periphery of community forest area. The villagers nearby the community forest area are mainly farmers and they have cows, buffaloes and goats.

They earn money by selling milk, curd and ghee. Agricultural production, livestock raising and forest resources are main sources of livelihood of the local people in this region. People depend on the forest products for their livelihood is done but things have developed. There is a gradual change from forest-based economy to other income generating skills. Thus, community forest is seeing lesser impact from the people.

Firewood as a primary source of energy is causing serious deforestation problems in many developing countries. Reliable information on firewood consumption rates is needed to develop afforestation plans and to control deforestation. Present firewood consumption patterns provide basic knowledge for designing forest management plans to meet immediate and long-term energy needs in rural Nepal.

A study of firewood consumption rates in Bhogteni revealed that mean consumption measured by weight was 0.95 m3/person/yr, with a maximum value of 1.07 m3. Seasonal differences in firewood use were attributed to colder weather in January, festival observances in October, availability of crop residues in November and December, and the higher moisture content of wood during the wet months.


Social change and fuel substitution are net of the conventionally studied relationships among income, electrification and fuel substitution. A better understanding of the determinants of households’ adoption of alternative energy sources is essential for informing forest policies. Forest policies might seek to induce substitution away from firewood toward alternative fuels by promoting new services in the community. Botanical study has great potential to advance our theoretical understanding of the links among social organization, social actions, consumption, and the environment.

In the absence of cheap alternatives, firewood still remains the major source of energy in rural areas. Firewood supplied about 78 percent of the total energy consumed and the demand is increasing by an annual rate of around 2.5 percent. Forest plays important roles in maintenance of ecological balance, and income generation by the people in rural areas.

Repeated biomass harvesting for human livelihood needs can cause significant changes in forest structure, composition and diversity. Such impacts have often been associated with the distance to villages and their size, but the effects of individual villages in relation to their characteristics have been little studied. Focusing on the issues around communities’ impacts on the forest, how resource extraction can be done in a sustainable way. Households also underestimated the impact of their resource extraction, which may prevent them from changing their behavior to benefit conservation. It is clear that understanding rural communities’ needs, their framing of resource extraction and utilization, and dependence on forest resources will be very helpful for long term conservation measure.

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Published on 1 September 2020