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Sustainable Energy Solutions to Reduce Poverty in South Asia

3.3.9 Fuel Wood Plantation

The source of all energy on earth is the sun. The sun energy is trapped by the plants through the photosynthetic process and converts into woody portion, leaves, flowers, fruits, tubers, seeds, grains, nuts, oil seeds etc. Animals and human beings obtain the same sun energy by consuming these plant products and absorbing them in the form of carbohydrate and fat (sources of immediate energy), protein (primarily for body building and growth but ultimately for energy during scarcity situations), vitamins and minerals (primarily for maintaining body resistance and facilitating body functions but ultimately for energy at the extreme cases) and water (which acts as a medium for all the physico-chemical functions in the body to transport energy and nutrients to different parts of the body and to excrete waste materials from the body.

All these are bio-chemical forms of energy. Fossil fuels such as coal, petrol, kerosene and other petroleum products are also extensively used as energy sources. These are also other forms of biochemical energy.

The woody materials of the plants have been the primary source of energy ever since man appeared on earth. About 70% of the energy needs in India is still met by fire wood, dried cattle dung and crop residues. Almost same is the situation in all South Asian countries and other developing countries of the world. For cooking and other household purposes in the rural areas fuel wood, cattle dung and crop residues are the main sources of energy. Among these three, the fuel-wood remains the most important source for the rural people and it will be so for many more years to come. Hence we should enquire into the possibilities of sustaining the fuel wood requirements of the rural people.
It is the women who are mostly concerned about the fuel for cooking. Daily they require minimum three to four kilograms of fuel wood for cooking. They spent many hours in the collection of firewood that is becoming more and scarcer day by day. This has a bearing on the health and family life of the women. It is because there is not enough firewood that the people in the villages are burning cow dung and crop residues that are good source of organic manures. By burning them the soil loses the fertility that could have been incorporated had they been used as manures.

The scarcity of fuel wood can only be solved by allotting land in all villages for fuel-wood and energy crop plantation in a scientific and systematic planning and peoples participation as a long-term strategy for meeting the fuel-wood requirement. This way every village can generate more than enough fuel wood for themselves as well as supply the fuel-wood to the nearest urban centers and earn sustainable livelihood for the entire village community and future generation. Plantation of appropriate trees would also improve the local ecology and regenerate the micro-agro-eco-system and conserve the environment. The planting of trees will also generate organic matter for the improvement of the physical and chemical properties of the soil protect erosion and washing away fertile top soil from and improve the water holding capacity of the entire village land.

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