Simple Switch, Big Impact: Why You Should Stop Using Charcoal



Dear Urban Residents of Africa,

International Day of Forests on March 21st, couldn’t have fallen on a better day and month. East Africa is on fire! News reports show the government of South Sudan has indefinitely closed all learning institutions beginning Monday, March 18 due to the current heatwave that is also sweeping across eastern Africa. Temperatures are expected to reach 45C (113F). While at home, the children are not to play outdoors lest they experience heatstroke’s.

Uganda is also unbearably hot and so is Kenya. Comedians are having a field day releasing funny content depicting the heat. In Africa we rarely talk about the weather because it is generally stable with no drastic season changes like in the North but a common greeting nowadays is, “how do you sleep through the heat at night?” Without belabouring the point – it is HOT!

That is why we are excited to celebrate this year’s International Day of Forests and also ask ordinary folks to play their part. That is what climate action is about anyway – everyone is playing their small part in ensuring that our planet doesn’t heat up further.

In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that we take urgent action to protect and preserve our  forests, as they are not only vital ecosystems but also powerful allies in the fight against climate change. 

This year’s theme, ‘Forests and Innovation’, highlights the importance of thinking creatively and adopting new approaches to safeguard our forests for future generations. Africa is home to some of the world’s most bio-diverse and valuable forests, providing essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water regulation, and biodiversity conservation.

However, the continent’s forests are facing unprecedented threats, with deforestation and degradation occurring at an alarming rate. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa lost 3.9 million hectares of forest annually between 2010 and 2020 and more than 65 million hectares of forest – an area nearly four times the size of Madagascar – since the 1990s. 

One of the major drivers of deforestation in Africa is the widespread use of charcoal for cooking in urban areas even when alternatives are available. Science Direct estimates that almost 200 million people, or 18% of the population (mostly in urban areas), in sub-Saharan Africa use charcoal as their main cooking fuel. Another 200 million people use charcoal as their secondary fuel. It is this demand for charcoal that has led to unsustainable logging practices, habitat destruction, and loss of biodiversity.

As urban residents, it is imperative that we transition from charcoal as a cooking fuel to more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives. By making conscious choices in our daily lives, we can contribute to the protection and restoration of our forests.

Low-carbon energy such as LPG, clean cookstoves, biogas technology, solar cookers, and efficient electric stoves offer environmentally friendly alternatives to charcoal. By embracing these options, we can reduce our reliance on charcoal, decrease our carbon footprint, and help preserve Africa’s precious forests for future generations to enjoy.

I urge every one of us to act, sign the wePlanet Pledge against use of charcoal and be part of the solution.

On this International Day of Forests, let us rededicate ourselves to being stewards of our environment, champions of innovation, and advocates for sustainable living. Together, let us commit against rampant deforestation and take action to make a difference and ensure that Africa’s forests thrive for generations to come.


WePlanet Africa

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