ETHANOL AS A
HOUSEHOLD FUEL IN
In Madagascar, like many developing countries, the majority of the population use traditional
biomass sources to meet their energy requirements; approximately 50% of all households and
90% of rural households worldwide still utilise solid fuels for cooking and heating (WHO, 2004).
In Madagascar, it is estimated that 95% of households rely on woody biomass and charcoal for
household energy, with annual national consumption figures of approximately 9 million m3 of
firewood and 8.6 million m3 of charcoal.
Overreliance of a community or population on woody biomass can often be linked to two major
Ill-health & respiratory problems
The combustion of biomass or coal emits substantial quantities of health-damaging pollutants,
such as particulates, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in smoke (Smith, 1987); leading to an
estimated 1.4 million annual premature deaths worldwide. In Madagascar, nearly 12,000 deaths
are attributed to respiratory infections caused by household air pollution (HAP) each year, over
80% of which are children under 5 years old.
In addition, the Malagasy forests have been in steady decline for several decades due, primarily to
‘slash n’ burn’ agricultural techniques, but also a heavy reliance on wood for fuel (5-20%). Over
80% of the country’s forests have been lost, with another 200,000 hectares lost annually. It is
expected that annual direct consumption of woody products will increase to more than 23 million
m3 by 2025, and that all of the island’s forests will be lost within 40 years at this rate.
This brief details a project conducted by a partnership between Practical Action Consulting,
Project Gaia, Berkely Air, the University of Liverpool (UoL) and the World Health Organization
(WHO). The aim was to study the viability of ethanol as a commercial household fuel in
Madagascar, and it was initiated to help achieve the goals set out by the Madagascar Action Plan
the promotion of alternative sources of energy to relieve the pressure on forest resources
the reduction of childhood mortality rates
The MAP was developed by the Madagascan Government as an overall framework of policies and
plans in response to the issues of health and deforestation described above. The programmes
include the Forestry Sector Development Plan and the National Environmental Action Plan. A key
feature of these plans has been the conservation of the natural environment, and has led to the
establishment of the National Environmental Office and the Madagascar National Parks (MNP).
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