Issues and prospects in coal utilisation in Zimbabwe's rural households
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The supply of energy to rural households in Zimbabwe has become an urgent issue for Government particularly for the reason that the traditional form of rural household energy, wood, is increasingly becoming harder to obtain due to the growing depletion of trees in most sections of the country. A few options have been considered to guarantee the supply of energy to affected households and to curb any loss of trees that may be attributed to the energy applications of indigenous forests. Among these options is the introduction of coal to rural households as a substitute for wood or as an alternative fuel where wood is no longer available. In this regard both the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources and Development and the Wankie Colliery Company are attempting to introduce coal into rural households. Currently, Wankie Colliery have sold about 270 stoves to rural users, the Department of Energy have introduced 135 coal stoves into the rural areas largely for experimental purposes. Lakas, a coal merchant company, has sold about 207 stoves throughout the country since 1985. All these attempts to introduce coal to rural households are being made in the absence of a clear understanding of some of the factors which might influence the effective diffusion of coal as a fuel in the rural households. Lack of such information may retard the dissemination of an otherwise highly acceptable and manageable technology or may allow the wastage of scarce resources and effort on an undesirable technology. Our work in this paper seeks to assist Government and the coal industry by providing a studied background to the idea of making coal a basic household fuel in Zimbabwe and in doing so to fill this information gap. The paper reports the results of a study conducted specifically for this purpose. The study assesses in general the degree to which coal can be a successful alternative to woodfuel or can offset the energy deficit caused by woodfuel depletion in the rural areas. In this regard the study assesses those attributes of coal which may affect its acceptability in rural households. These factors include cost, hazardous emissions, smoking, handling, and conformity or lack of conformity with entrenched energy use patterns and lifestyles on the one hand and rural households attitudes towards coal, their incomes, cost of coal, and attitudes toward the idea of commercial fuels on the other hand. The study takes a two-pronged approach to the assessment of hfealth risks associated with coal burning in the rural household setting. First, the design of cooking devices and of the cooking environment, the kitchen, are analyzed for the purpose of determining the possibility of harmful exposure to toxic emissions due to poor dispersal of harmful emissions from coal. Second, the study analyses the properties of the coal most likely to be used in rural households with the view to assessing the quantity of hazardous substances it is likely to release during burning in the household. The study also reviews the structure of delivered prices for coal at selected villages or districts. This is done by reviewing existing and possible coal price build-ups. Consideration is also given to the option of small-scale coal mining as a means of bringing small mining operations close to the woodfuel deficient areas as a means of reducing the price of coal delivered to households. Four areas (districts) were chosen for the survey. These are Mukarakate in Murehwa, Tongogara in Shurugwi, Chingezi in Mberengwa, and the Mazowe Citrus Estates. The first three of these areas face a severe shortage of fuelwood. The Mazowe Citrus Estates have no fuelwood shortage but have been using coal in their households for over 20 years. Mazowe thus presented a good case forjudging the adaptability of households to coal as a basic fuel and also to determine any actual difficulties households may have experienced in using coal.
Additional Citation InformationMaya, R.S. and Wekwete, N.N. (1989). Issues and prospects in coal utilisation in Zimbabwe's rural households: Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies; 14p.
Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies