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The reign of tiny firewood pieces

Over the years Baba has performed a vital function of chopping fire wood for women in the area and this has earned him recognition wherever…

Over the years Baba has performed a vital function of chopping fire wood for women in the area and this has earned him recognition wherever he goes in the neighbourhood.
But of late, nobody reckons with him as his services are no longer needed: people now buy tiny bunches of firewood that do not require the wood chopping services.
Baba Mai Itache told Daily Trust that he is having difficulties in maintaining his family. He now survives on goodwill and lacked the resources to pay his children’s school fees.
Baba’s suffering arises from the fact that huge lumbers hitherto used as firewood which required the services of a splitter have now given way to tiny sticks, the choice of most women who use firewood.
Firewood sellers in Zamfara State said tiny and thinner firewood pieces currently being supplied by the dealers in the state stem from the fact that there is strict regulation by the forestry officers on which tree to fell.
Some of the firewood dealers who spoke to our correspondent in Gusau said the forestry officers in the state usually instruct the wood cutters to go for dead and dried trees rather than the living and green ones and that the dead ones are difficult to get in the forest.
Malam Rabi’u Ali a Gusau based firewood seller said those regulations affect the quality and even the quantity of the firewood the dealers fetch from the forest.
“There is also the problem of insecurity because these forests are infested with armed bandits and going deep to get good timber is very risky because we hear the horrible tales of armed robbery cases by the dealers themselves,” he added.
12 year-old Aisha Sani was spotted carrying a bundle of firewood made up of only three pieces and she told our reporter that she bought the bundle for N15 because it is cheaper and catches fire easily.
In Kebbi State, Hajiya Amina Abdullahi Gele, a resident behind Mechanic village in Birnin Kebbi said tiny firewood were cheaper than the big ones that need to be chopped into smaller pieces before use.
“The tiny woods burn faster and are preferred especially in the rainy season. Its only disadvantage is that one hardly extracts any charcoal because of its high combustion rate.
An average family of four can  cook rice and small quantity of stew with N50 worth of tiny wood pieces as against same quantity of big ones that sell for N100 per bundle that can only be found in very few places due to scarcity.
Musa G Abubakar who resides at Badariya in Birnin Kebbi however said his newly wedded wife, Maryam, prefers using gas than either big or tiny firewood for cooking. “My wife prefers gas cooker because it is more economical due to the small size of my family for now.
“A cylinder that cost N3,000 lasts between three to four months and it is readily available. People do not want to use gas because they are not used to it and are afraid of high risk of fire accident. But firewood also has its attendant health hazards generated from smoke,” he said.
Mohammad Abdullahi, a wood seller at Low Cost, Argungu said he had to abandon rice farming to sell firewood after he lost his farm to flood disaster seven years back.
Abdullahi, 45, said even though he used to cultivate up to 30 bags of rice, “the fire wood business is better because it is more lucrative than rice farming. I make up to N10,000 profit from a truck of N30,000 of the tiny firewood which I use to maintain my two wives and five children.
“A bundle of the tiny wood pieces cost between cost N30-N100 as against the big ones that cost N100.Though the big wood logs attract more profit, however, we make quick turn over from the tiny wood because women prefer using the them due to their quick combustion and are easy to use. We get our supply from Agoda and Wali forest near Argungu,” he said.
Director, Forestry, Ministry of Environment, Umar Bello said that the woods are getting exhausted in the forest. “These are the only ones available because the rate of consumption is higher than that of replacement of the trees in the forest. At the end we will be left with no tree at all if care is not taken,” he cautioned.
The director said: “Combretum nigcan and passia are the remaining common species with tiny wood logs used for cooking in the state. This is because everybody, including the elite have resorted to the use of firewood. The only way out is for government to subsidize the cost of kerosene and gas and be made available. Individuals, committees should also embrace government afforestation programme.
“Government has taken measures to produce over 84 kilometer seedlings through the Sure-P programme in addition to one hectare of orchids provided in each of the 21 local government areas, which is going to be a continuous exercise.
“Many of those arrested by our forest guides operating in the forests illegally are charged to court. While stringent measures are taken before granting permission to fell trees in the forests which include payment for the replacement of the tree cut down,” he said.
In Benue State, excessive exploitation of merchandise forest woods has been identified as a major reason why nowadays chunks of charcoal billet products are getting smaller in the market.
Retired Director of Forestry in the state, Anthony Sorkwagh maintained that wood products between 20 and 25 years ago cannot be compared in size to what is obtainable in the forest in recent times.
“There was less pressure on exploitation of merchantable forest woods about 25 years ago hence these woods could produce bigger charcoal billets,” he said.
Sorkwagh also explained that in those days charcoal business was relatively unknown and less attractive as against recent times when exploitation pressure on the few remaining over girth timber woods by people who resort to cutting them down.
He noted that such undergirth wood activities produce charcoal chunk billets of smaller sizes and lead to deforestation recourse on the environment.
The retired director added that people take to the business mainly due to rural poverty to enable them earn a living just as the unavailability of kerosene or other source of energy plays a leading role in the charcoal trade.

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