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Charcoal fuels the economy and deforestation of Mozambique

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Asked why he makes charcoal, Guilaza reacts like an American might if asked to explain the whys of driving a car: "Everyone does the charcoal." It's the main way, in this cash-scarce region, to get a few meticais to buy a shirt or a goat or a pencil for a child. It's simply a way of life.

But that doesn't mean that Guilaza is unreflective. He gestures to the chaotic collection of grasses, skinny young trees, and thick bushes: "This used to be a no man's land, a forest." But over the past decade, he says, the sky-kissing trees have become fewer and fewer.

Cash-earning work is scarce in rural Mozambique, which is largely a subsistence and barter economy. In some parts of the country, as much as 70 percent of individuals' income is from charcoal, estimates the Stockholm Environment Institute.

So it's no surprise that Guilaza seees no other choice. But he also says he has started planting saplings, because he worries that at the rate the forest around his village is disappearing, there will be nothing left for his children to chop.

"[Charcoal] is probably the biggest problem in Mozambique, as far as deforestation," says Regina Cruz, a Mozambican forestry expert. "Whole forests are being cut. But what else can the people do."

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Today, Guilaza walks to his kiln, a 30-minute walk from his house. There's no set schedule, he says, but when he woke up at 5 a.m., he knew that instead of going to his corn fields with his wife, Donazia, he would come to this pile of exposed earth. He started this oven a few days before, after he'd chopped two thick trees that grew alongside his corn fields.

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