Joining forces to boost sustainable energy in Mozambique

For the first time a national forum to promote sustainable energy is in operation in Mozambique. The forum unites more than 100 non-governmental organizations and academic and governmental institutions. In Mozambique sustainable energy development is vital to reduce poverty, environmental impact and health consequences from energy use.

Mozambique is considered as one of the poorest countries in the world, with around half the population living below the poverty line.  70-80 % of the population depends on biomass as their vital energy source, firewood on open fires in rural areas and charcoal on inefficient stoves in urban areas. The main problems with use of firewood for cooking are connected to the time spent for collection and the serious negative health impacts from smoke. The production of charcoal has on the other hand been referred to as one of the main causes of localized deforestation, especially surrounding the larger cities.  As demand for charcoal is increasing, new forest regions are vulnerable to overexploitation. In Maputo, the distance to natural vegetation has increased from around 50 km before 1980 to 150-200 km in 1999, and currently Maputo is receiving charcoal and firewood from areas 400-600 km away.

Traditional production methods of charcoal in kilns results in 85-90% energy loss in the transformation from wood to charcoal. The households experience similar losses using inefficient iron stoves for cooking with charcoal. In total only around 5-10 % of the energy content of the wood ends up as useful heating of the food.  The low energy efficiency of open fires and the most used stoves for charcoal leads to harmful pollution with local and global impact (firewood and charcoal), high costs (charcoal), unsustainable forest management (charcoal), and unnecessary time consumption (firewood).

Although there are good examples of affordable, sustainable energy solutions for poor households in Mozambique, this work is scattered, so experiences have to be shared and developed in order to mainstream, upscale and disseminate best practice.  Many small organizations work within this field, and there is a clear need to translate their experience into good advocacy work in order to be able to influence on national energy and climate policies.

Non-governmental organizations have a unique contact with the grassroots level in communities.  NGOs are independent from suppliers and profits, which makes them a more credible advisor. NGOs can function as a platform for a better dialogue between communities and authorities and contribute to make national development plans better founded in the communities.

On this basis Naturvernforbundet’s partner organization in Mozambique, ADEL-Sofala, took the first initiative in 2009 to establish a national forum for sustainable energy in Mozambique. After long preparations the forum was formally launched on 6 September 2011. The full name is now Forum for Sustainable Energy and Development in Mozambique/ Fórum de Energias e Desenvolvimento Sustentável de Moçambique (FEDESMO). FEDESMO’s secretariat is headed by ADEL-Sofala in Beira, with focal points in other provinces. Members include NGOs, academic institutions and governmental institutions like regional and national ministries of energy, forestry and environment, and the national energy fund FUNAE.  In total there are now about 100 members registered or in the process of registration.

At the launching of the forum, director in ADEL-Sofala, Hamid Taybo, expressed his ideas for FEDESMO:  "We want to make room for the communication of actions and that there is interaction between civil society organizations and government bodies, in order to find better solutions regarding renewable energy. The charcoal production is one of FEDESMO’s main concerns and will, together with the Government and the involved communities, seek better solutions to avoid deforestation.''

Within FEDESMO the participating organizations will share information between local and national actors to strengthen their own grassroots work and to translate their experiences into the national energy policies. Among the suggested activities are to take advantage of the fact that 2012 will be the international year for “sustainable energy for all”; to link up to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves; and to develop a national strategy for implementation of clean cookstoves.

FEDSMO will in its work build on the fact that the potential for improvement of charcoal production is enormous, it can be done quickly, and it is essential to get processes started in order to speed up measures in this direction. Technologies and practices to increase the output is simple, cheap and are known to a certain  extent by some privileged stakeholders, but the capacity to act effectively and the political support is blatantly lacking. A combination of increased quality of the kiln used for charcoal production and improved stoves used by the households will give the same energy service but reduce the wood consumption by 3-4 times. Combined with sound forest management practices and re-cultivation, this will constitute important contributions to halt deforestation without taking the main fuel source from the majority of poor, urban households. In a longer time perspective it is necessary to reduce the share of households cooking on charcoal.  This is a larger and more costly work that so far has had slow development and which is not likely to reach out to most households in a foreseeable future.

Naturvernforbundet will in the coming years support FEDESMO with its wide competence within practical energy solutions and dissemination strategies, and can draw upon many years of experience gained from project activities in different countries. Naturvernforbundet has specialized on low-cost, clean energy technologies and practices promoting energy efficiency and local utilization of renewable energy. Most of the organizations involved in Mozambique are experienced project organizations that are less experienced in networking and policy formulation and lobbying. Naturvernforbundet will backstop the development of FEDESMO in facilitating exchange of experiences and the development of common policy recommendations based on practical experiences. Furthermore, it is important to assist the new forum in its ambition to influence on ongoing development and formulation of new pro-clean energy policies.