Community-Led Sustainable Forest Management Program Creates Wealth for Rural Families and New Energy Sources in Senegal

June 10, 2014


The Community-Led Sustainable Forest Management Program has increased the incomes of rural women in Senegal, who can now produce and use bio-gas, and bring clean-burning cook stoves into their homes, improving their health and quality of life.  

  • A comprehensive sustainable forest management program in Senegal puts communities in charge of the local natural resources, leading to 80% of sustainably managed forest nation-wide and a tangible drop in deforestation amounting to a total of 23,700 hectares
  • The project successfully integrated gender considerations into its activities, achieving gender equity in local committees and boosting the participation of women in new businesses
  • More than 317 Senegalese villages are now prime candidates for rural electrification because of their increased income, ultimately creating tangible socioeconomic and environmental improvements for participating communities

TAMBACOUNDA, June 10, 2014 — Mrs. Fatoumata Souaré is a hero in this rural, forested area located 250 miles southeast of Dakar. She and her children own and operate a sustainable charcoal production business that nets some $2800 every three months. The income has allowed Mrs. Souaré, who lost her husband a few years ago, to build a new house, install a solar panel, send her children to school, and purchase health insurance for her family. Because of her focused efforts, not only women but also men in this region in eastern Senegal are in awe over her accomplishments. 

" Mrs. Souaré is just like a champion, and many people look up to her as an example of success. Even in Dakar people are surprised at how much money she is able to make by producing charcoal in a sustainable way and marketing it. "

Awa Seck

World Bank PROGEDE 2 Task Team Leader

Mrs. Souaré is one of many residents in rural areas of Senegal who have benefited from the World Bank sponsored Second Sustainable and Participatory Energy Management Project (PROGEDE-2). Building on the successful PROGEDE-1, PROGEDE-2 is community-focused and designed to preserve the overall forest ecosystems that many poor rural Senegalese families rely on.

PROGEDE-2 activities have also helped families to diversify their household fuel needs away from wood, supported beekeepers to modernize their craft, and brought improved seeds and larger yields to farmers. And with the support of ESMAP’s Africa Renewable Energy Access (AFREA) Gender and Energy program, PROGEDE-2 was able to integrate gender considerations into the project design and results framework to ensure that the project reached out to rural women.

At a recent visit to Tambacounda, Mor Ngom, Senegal’s Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development celebrated the achievements of PROGEDE-2, which he called the flagship forest management project of the Government of Senegal. Ngom said he supports diligent monitoring of Forest Code reforms and forest taxation. Through PROGEDE-2, the government's policy on forest management, decentralization and participation will provide opportunities for grassroots communities to reap the benefits of the forest resources on their land, Ngom added.

“In Senegal, participating communities have embraced PROGEDE-2, which has resulted in a significant drop in deforestation, improved participation of women in business ventures, gender equity in forest management committees, and a sharp boost in family incomes,” said Vera Songwe, World Bank Country Director for Senegal. “We hope that the government will make every effort to support continuation of the project and to spread these achievements throughout the country.”

Managing the Forests

Today Senegal’s trees are rapidly disappearing due to overuse from a growing population, and deforestation is a major environmental challenge. Some 58% of households rely on firewood for fuel while 26% use charcoal produced from wood. The government has decentralized the oversight of the forests and now community-driven forest management committees oversee forest management plans in the participating regions, where some 80% of the country’s forest stand is located.

This community oversight is also helping to break the monopoly of charcoal traders, who send workers into the forests to cut down swaths of trees, truck the charcoal to cities, and resell the charcoal at high prices to urban households. “The monopoly of charcoal traders is progressively being broken down since the establishment of the project's community based forest management systems,” Seck says.

PROGEDE-2 also promises significant climate mitigation gains: scientists agree that as much as 30% of carbon dioxide emissions over the past 150 years have been the result of deforestation. As of 2013, roughly 520,500 hectares of forest are managed in a sustainable way, and community sustainable forest management plans have helped to protect 23,700 total hectares of forest from deforestation in the targeted regions.

Diversifying Household Energy Sources

A key goal of PROGEDE-2 is to modernize household energy use in rural Senegal with improved stoves that can also burn charcoal briquettes. Cooking indoors on these stoves is much healthier for families, especially children, because they generate much less smoke compared with cooking over a wood fire. Biogas, or gas produced from organic matters such as manure or vegetable waste, is another fuel alternative, and some 520 biogas systems that are being established in communities provide gas for cooking and electricity. Many of the systems operate on cow dung, gathered by farmers each morning and shoveled into a small-scale digester. Over time the waste is metabolized into a methane-rich gas for energy, and nitrogen-rich slurry, which can be used for fertilizer.

The biogas technology can be mainstreamed countrywide to benefit other poor and vulnerable households, Seck says. Both technologies directly improve the lives of women and girls who spend hours each day fetching wood for the family’s heating and cooking needs.

As many as 250,000 Senegalese are involved in PROGEDE-2 activities, and a survey of community incomes shows that the charcoal making revenues going to the villages rose from 6% in 2009 to 52% in 2013. The total revenue coming from the charcoal value chain and eco-friendly income generating activities increased from $18 million to $23 million during the same time period for all of the participating communities.

Rural residents are using some of this income to purchase equipment to contain bush fires, to purchase bicycles for transportation, and to construct buildings where forest management inter-village committees can gather. 

“With a significant boost to rural incomes, PROGEDE-2 has helped to establish a sustainable income base in rural Senegal and created a new demand for energy, making the 317 project villages prime candidates for rural electrification and increased access to other modern energy services,” Seck says.

Steps Toward Modern Beekeeping and Farming

In addition to improved forest and fuels management, PROGEDE-2 has enabled many villages to modernize the practices of beekeepers that wear protective suits to harvest honey from the improved beehives. In the past years, harvesters set smoking fire beneath the beehives to scatter the bees, which oftentimes ignited to a bush fire that rapidly spread far beyond the hives. Local farmers would let the fire burn because they had no stake in keeping the forest healthy.

“Ever since we began the community forest management systems, no beehive driven fire burn has been reported to us, simply because villagers are now fully aware and sensitized that the forest brings income to the villages. Now people have banned such practice, and whenever it occurs they will all run and put out a fire right away,” Seck says.

The project also invigorated farming in the regions, with new seeds, fertilizers and crop rotation to keep the soil healthy, which boosts crop productivity. Pilot gardens in participating communities now grow tomatoes and peppers, and fruits such as mangoes and oranges, providing families with food and extra crops to sell to communities outside the project region. Families also benefit from improved animal husbandry such as livestock vaccination and artificial insemination.

Increasing Youth and Women’s Participation

Mrs. Souaré’s success in charcoal production is even more stunning because the charcoal production jobs in Senegal have in past been strictly for men, Seck says. Now with training for the entire charcoal value chain supported by the project, some 1,018 women have emerged as charcoal producers, while the share of total community income going to women has risen from 3% in 2009 to 12% in 2013 with additional increases expected in the years to come.

PROGEDE-2’s focus on gender sensitivity has also affected the bodies tasked with forest management: results show that gender parity – with 50% women and 50% men – exists in village contact groups, the General Assembly, and the Executive Board, and women make up 30 to 50% of those participating in forest management steering committees, depending on the area.

To share news of their success, a group of rural women traveled to Dakar to join the regional AFREA Gender and Energy workshop where participants from Senegal, Mali, Benin, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia discussed gender issues within their energy programs.

Seck says the PROGEDE-2 is fostering a lasting, positive impact on the rural poor.

“Although youth immigration to Europe or other developed countries to get jobs and a better life remains an on-going problem in Senegal, thanks to PROGEDE-2, wealth is created within rural communities in project targeted areas,” he said. “In fact, many young people told us that they would just rather stay in their village and participate in these activities to improve their living conditions. The project is very supportive, and today they and their families are very happy.”