Forest Cover Changes and Household Energy Utilization Patterns in the Semien Mountains and Adjacent Districts, Northwest Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Forests are a major source of domestic energy in many developing countries, including Ethiopia. Energy is a cornerstone and strategic tool to meet basic human needs and address many global development challenges. However, the current use patterns of forests have resulted in deforestation, which is resulted in jeopardizing the energy supply for households. This study aims to investigate forest cover changes and household energy utilization patterns in the Semien Mountains and adjacent districts of Northwestern Ethiopia. The study used exploratory sequential mixed methods. This study was based on data generated from 420 randomly selected households in two districts using household surveys, key informant interviews and field observation. The study (i) quantify forest cover changes using remotely sensed satellite data and identify the drivers of change through socio-economic surveys and key informant interviews, (ii) examines the determinants of household fuel choice for domestic chores using a multivariate probit model, (iii) measures the effectiveness of Mirt improved stove using kitchen performance test and analyse the determinants of adoption of Mirt stove using logistic regression model and (iv) examines the link between fuelwood collection and children's school attendance using a two-stage conditional maximum likelihood estimation technique. The results revealed that the percentage area under forests declined by about 31% over the last 36 years. This loss translates to an annual average forest loss of about 1.02% (919 ha year-1 ). The observed reduction in forest cover was mainly driven by many intertwined factors, including the growing demand for domestic energy needs and farmland expansion. The change detection matrix revealed that forests lost the most (65,898 ha). Moreover, the spatial patterns of change revealed that forest cover experienced both swap and net change. The results also showed household energy utilization patterns skewed to biomass fuels, particularly fuelwood, resulting in deforestation. Estimates of the multivariate probit model showed that a mix of socio-economic factors determines household cooking energy choice behaviour. The study also found evidence of fuel stacking, as there is an increase in the number of fuel types used by households as socio-economic status improves. Besides, the kitchen performance test results revealed that Mirt stoves saved household fuelwood consumption by 777 kg per household per year. Similarly, Mirt stove reduced the time needed to bake injera compared to three-stone stoves by 23.5 minutes per baking session, equivalent to an annual per capita time-saving of about 56.4 hours. Empirical results highlighted that household age, sex, education, family size, availability of kitchens and access to credit have significant influences on the decision to adopt Mirt stove. Furthermore, the finding revealed that children involved in fuelwood collection tasks reduce the likelihood of school attendance. The results support the hypothesis of a negative relationship between children participating in fuelwood collection work and the likelihood that they will attend school. Thus, the study suggests that a concerted policy effort is required to help the local community use biomass fuels more environmentally friendly and use sustainable and affordable modern energy sources through access to improved cookstoves and afforestation to increase biomass supply