How to control the exploitation of wood:
Rural markets and domestic energy strategy

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Region West Africa
Capital Niamey
Surface area 1,267,000 km2
Population 14,426,000 inhab.
Population density 11 inhab./km2
Infant mortality rate (per thousand births) 153
Fertility rate (births per woman) 7.9
Population growth rate (per annum) 3.4 %
Life expectancy (female-male) 44 – 44 years
Average temperatures (min./max.) 22.4 / 36.2 ºC
Forest area 1 %


During the past twenty years, Niger has experienced rapid population growth with greatly increasing pressure on energy sources. Wood is the primary source of domestic energy and collection of this resource has reached alarming proportions. This situation adds to the current constraints placed on food reserves and adds to other factors such as drought, poor development of agriculture and overgrazing.

The consequences of this are clear: the forests are damaged and the process of desertification has accelerated. In an attempt to contain the phenomenon and promote sustainable development through the controlled exploitation of wood resources, the Government of Niger has introduced a system of ‘domestic energy strategy’ (DES) insisting on the need for participation among rural communities to sell wood within a controlled system of rural markets.

Wood as a principal source of domestic energy

Studies undertaken in 1990 show that the town of Niamey consumes as much as 133,000 tons of wood a year. By 1994, the growing population led to an increase in demand, which has now reached 150,000 tons. This trend is continuing (picture 1.). However, it is possible to preserve the forest without exploitation, providing it is done in a way that is reasonable and selective.

1. In Niger, the process of desertification is accelerated
by the uncontrollable exploitation of firewood.
© Thomas Schaaf

badCauses and effects of uncontrolled forest exploitation

It is estimated that 98% of families use wood to meet their energy needs for cooking. Some ten to twenty years ago, firewood came from dead trees or branches, while today the use of ‘live’ trees has been observed. This is often due to logging linked to deforestation practices. Over the past twelve years, the exploitation of wood has proved to be more lucrative than traditional agricultural activities or cattle rearing (picture 5).
The trader-transporters leave their men in the forest for several weeks to collect wood without any restrictions.

The situation has been aggravated by the fraudulent means to obtain the transport
of wood to the markets, since high profits are at stake.
It soon became urgent for the environmental services to rethink their intervention policy or else suffer the consequences of the massive destruction of ecosystems.

2. Rural firewood markets take place close to the villages
and near to exploitation sites. Transport to urban areas
is carried out by trader-transporters.
© Thomas Schaaf

goodPossible solutions

To succeed, development policy must take into account its principal potential users, in this case, the local villagers from the forest areas. Starting in 1981, the state initiated and tested a new control policy for the exploitation of wood while managing the protected forest of Guesselbodi, among others. Other forest planning developments have been implemented, such as in the forest region of Gorou Bassounga and Faira, to name but two. Furthermore, DES has been developed so that the wood consumption of households is managed in a way that will not cause shortages in the future, particularly in towns. DES also seeks to promote alternatives to wood by promoting the use
of petrol or gas. Although these are non-renewable energy sources, they do present less immediate damage to the environment (See Unit 19 of the Teacher’s Guide).

3. Firewood is used by 98% of households.
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand Earth from Above UNESCO

bladDES and the rural markets

DES was launched in Niger in 1989. The programme consists of making wood production more efficient, as well as the commercialization of the products. It involves putting the villagers at the heart of the strategy and making them the true custodians of the rural landscape (picture 1.). They manage their forest capital and in return they recuperate an income generated by their activity. This policy preserves biological diversity, provides jobs and revenue to the villagers and boosts the states’ tax receipts.

DES is associated with the production and distribution of wood, the commercialization of which takes place in rural markets.
Set up by private operators, these markets are places where wood is sold (wood and charcoal) and are managed by local producers, away from large cities.
The DES policy not only ensures that the wood comes from controlled production, which is more competitive than traditional production, but also more importantly, it insists on the rational and controlled utilization of wood resources. Satisfying the energy needs of the Niger population, without destroying their production source, is a major concern. The rural firewood markets are held close to the plantation sites and it is the responsibility of the wood trader-transporters to deliver the wood to urban centres (picture 2.).

Their costs are incurred at three levels:

4. Niger is a country in the Sahel belt that is
seriously affected by desertification.
© Pierre Donnaint UNESCO

The most important aspect of the plan remains the levy of transport tax deducted when the wood is purchased by the traders. A portion of the total sum of the transport tax is paid back to the state so that it may continue its supervisory task and provide the means to finance rural development
and reforestation programmes. In fact, between 40% and 60% of fiscal receipts are allocated to forest planning programmes such as agro-forestry plantations, nurseries, fire-breakers and measures to counter erosion so as to ensure the sustainable exploitation of the forest. A portion of the revenues retained by the villagers (between 30% and 50% of the tax, depending on the operating method adopted) is reinvested in forest planning. The remaining sum can be invested according to the wishes of the villagers.

DES is now fully established on institutional and regulatory foundations, and is functioning satisfactorily. A precise plan has been established to multiply structures of production among villages to enable responsible local people to take control of their forested land and resources.
Since 1989 the strategy has developed around the following points outlined below:

Since January 1994, the control plan is entirely under the responsibility of the environmental services. They regularly publish the status of the receipts as from 1989 to 1994 for the four principal urban centres of Niamey, Maradi, Zinder and Tahoua. The state receipts collected by this system are greater than the sums collected under the former exploitation system, which was inadequately controlled.

5. Ploughing fields close to Maradi, Niger.
© Pierre Donnaint UNESCO.


Between 1992 and 1995, fifty rural markets were set up in the major cities of Niger. In Niamey, the rural markets assure supplies for 10% to 13% of annual consumption. The challenge for the DES consists of elaborating a development plan that is both easy to understand and implement for the administration and the local villagers.

Strict controls at the entrance to towns reduce the possibility of fraud in terms of wood ‘smuggling’ (uncontrolled forest exploitation). The ultimate objective of rural markets is to have the rural population managing production and thus negotiating prices with the trader-transporters.

This case study was proposed by Mr El Hadj Mamane Abdou
For more information, please contact her at the following address:

Mr El Hadj Mamane Abdou
PFP du Niger
BP 11729

Tel. (00227) 732352



The teacher explains the system
of rural markets to the class.


Where is Niger located?
Is your country on the same continent as Niger?
What characterizes the climate of Niger? What desertification problems are found in Niger? Are they the same as those found in your region?
What are the differences? What are the similarities?


Draw a forest with lots
of trees and greenery.
Next to it, draw a forest that has been deforested and has very few trees.
Explain your picture.


Explain the uses of wood and why trees are cut down. Is there a way in which forest resources can be used without degrading the environment? Explain how wood can be exploited so that there is enough for the future.


Devise a role-playing game on the over-exploitation and trade of wood in Niger. Imagine the dialogue between trader-transporters, produce-vendors, woodcutters and those responsible for the environment, with each person (character) defending his/her position. Finally, the system of rural markets is introduced.


Tick the correct answers from the following:

In Niger, desertification is caused by:

• the lack of rain.
• tree logging.
• cars.
• wind.
• poor forest management (not enough trees are replanted).
• big animals.
• pollution.

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