Discussion Paper

India's Firewood Crisis Re-examined

May 1, 2006 | Klaas van 't Veld, Urvashi Narain, Shreekant Gupta, Neetu Chopra, Supriya Singh

Abstract

Households in rural India are highly dependent on firewood as their main source of energy, partly becausenon-biofuels tend to be expensive. The prevailing view is therefore that, when faced with shortages offirewood in the village commons, such households, and especially the women in them, have to spend moreand more time searching for firewood and eventually settle for poorer-quality biomass such as twigs, branchesand dry leaves.Using data from a random sample of rural households in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, we cometo very different conclusions, however. We find that households in villages with degraded forests do notspend longer hours searching for firewood, but instead switch to either using firewood from private trees orto using agricultural waste for fuel. In the long run, moreover, households respond to the firewood shortageby altering the mix of private trees on their land in favor of firewood, as opposed to fruit, trees. We find alsothat, Joint Forest Management, a government program initiated in the 1990s, is having a positive impact onthe firewood economy.