Fuelwood scarcity means that its collection is an exhausting chore that drains the energies of women and girls in many parts of the developing world. There are no reliable figures, but anecdotes suggest that injury and bites and stings from snakes and venomous insects while gathering fuel in harsh environments are a common cause of morbidity and premature death.
In some regions it is not fuelwood collection which has led to deforestation but clearing of land for agricultural purposes. For the majority in rural areas, the main supply of wood biomass is then the farm and the area around it. The conventional approach of growing plantations to increase supply does not take into account such site-specific conditions and the people actually affected by the crisis. Fuelwood is perceived a free resource in rural areas, making fuelwood production unattractive to local people.
Present levels of planting programmes do not offer much hope of alleviating the fuelwood situation. A recent survey of fifteen developing countries estimated that they would have to plant 669,000 ha a year to meet domestic fuel requirements in the year 2000, whereas current programmes cover only 63,500 ha, less than a tenth of what is needed. For the 60 million people of the Southern African region, fuelwood accounts for 80% of total energy consumption.