In 1980 the National Academy of Sciences published Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy Production, a report prepared by an ad hoc panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation (ACTI). It is one of a series of reports that propose unconventional scientific approaches to problems of developing countries.
The original book describes 60 tree species or groups of species with promise for cultivation around the home or village or in firewood plantations. It does not suggest a comprehensive solution to the firewood crisis, but it does examine one part of the solution: the selection of species suitable for cultivation m different climatic zones.
During the final preparation of the first report, information was received on other species that also seemed to have potential as firewood crops but could not be included because of time constraints and lack of information. After publication of the book, still more information on further species was received. It was decided that these additional species should be evaluated and described in a second volume.
The purpose of this report, as of its predecessor, is not to delineate strategies for growing and utilizing firewood in any given region of the world, but to provide some general concepts and methods for planners and technicians to consider.
Primary emphasis is on species suitable for growing firewood for individual family needs. However, species suited to plantation cultivation for fueling small industrial factories, electric generators, and crop driers are also discussed. Most of the plants are little known in traditional forest production. Some are woody shrubs rather than forest trees, but these many-branched, crooked, sometimes short-lived species may better meet requirements for small-scale village use.
We particularly looked for multipurpose plants that have uses in addition to providing fuel-plants that adapt well to different sites, establish easily, and require little care; plants that thrive in problem environments such as steep hillslopes, lownutrient or toxic soils, arid zones, and tropical highlands; and plants that have characteristics such as nitrogen-fixing ability, rapid growth, ability to coppice, and high calorific value.
In addition to the first report, other ACTI publications in the
series Innovations in Tropical Reforestation that contain information on some
exceptionally promising firewood species and related technologies are:
· Sowing Forests from the Air (1981)
· Mangium and Other Fast-Growing Acacias of the Humid Tropics (1983)
· Calliandra: A Versatile Small Tree for the Humid Tropics (1983)
· Casuarinas: Nitrogen-Fixing Trees for Adverse Sites (1984)
· Leucaena: Promising Forage and Tree Crop for the Tropics (Second edition in preparation)
Information on promising, fast-growing trees is also contained in Report No. 25, Tropical Legumes: Resources for the Future (1979).
These publication activities are supported largely by the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). This study was sponsored by AID's Office of the Science Advisor, which also made possible the free distribution of this report.
A related report was written by E. L. Little, Jr., under a contract funded by AID and administered by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (Common Fuelwood Crops: A Handbook for Their Identification. Communi-Tech Associates, Morgantown, West Virginia. Available for purchase from Communi-Tech Associates, Post Office Box 3170, Morgantown, West Virginia 26503, USA. Single copy price: $13.50 [softcover]). The main objective of the handbook is to aid in the identification of the common trees and shrubs grown as fuelwood crops in plantations and forests chiefly in tropical regions. It was prepared as a companion volume to Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy Production (Report No. 27).
This book, if misunderstood, is potentially dangerous. Because of the severity of the firewood crisis, the panel has selected trees and shrubs that are aggressive and grow rapidly. These seem appropriate for cultivation in areas of extreme fuel shortage, particularly where climates and soil conditions are harsh. However, in more equable environments, and where no fuelwood shortages exist, such potentially invasive plants should be introduced only with great care and with serious consideration for the threat posed by their weediness. In any trials of fuelwood plantations, local species should always be given priority.