The charcoal curse

Travelling the road from Pemba to Nacala to the start of my journey in Mozambique, we were constantly driving through banks of wet smelling smoke spiralling out of the forests along the road. A beautiful landscape of once rolling hills blanketed in forest now resembled a mangy looking dog. Huge pockets of burnt ground is visible everywhere. Massive trees that once stood tall reaching for the clouds now lay limp on the ground, their branches hacked away and packed around their trunks, ignited and slowly burning away their last life, transforming this age old tree into a bag of black chintzy splinters of charcoal.

It has been no different in Madagascar, the land has been raped of every tree visible, those that have not been plundered by previous raiders of the islands resources, are now chopped and burnt to transform it into this wasteful source of fuel charcoal. Up and down the valleys as I travel I hear the constant thud of steel blades chopping into the wood of the trees, they are so scarce now that I find myself flinch at the sound. Far in the distant valleys one sees the huge plumes of smoke bellowing into the air from the charcoal pits. Along every bush path and road villagers are seen toiling under the burden of these huge bags of charcoal, heading like ants along the trails leading to the bigger town where this fuel is consumed and there seems an inexhaustible appetite for it.

In Mozambique the roads are lined with massive bags for sale, I have seen 20 ton trucks loaded with these bags heading across the border to SA, helping fuel the market for this destructions of the forests.

It seems such a wasteful source of energy as 70% of the fuel is burned during the process of making it. Why, I ask, why not use the wood itself, a more efficient source of energy. I suppose the answer will come too late as there will soon be no trees to prove the theory.

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