Chad: Charcoal Ban takes it’s toll

A government ban on charcoal in the Chadian capital N’djamena has
created what one observer called “explosive” conditions as families
desperately seek the means to cook. “As we speak women and children
are on the outskirts of N’djamena scavenging for dead branches, cow
dung or the occasional scrap of charcoal,” Merlin Totinon Nguébétan,
head of the UN Human Settlements Programme (HABITAT) in Chad, told
IRIN from the capital. “People cannot cook.” “Women giving birth
cannot even find a bit of charcoal to heat water for washing,” Céline
Narmadji, with the Association of Women for Development in Chad, told
IRIN. Unions and other civil society groups say the government failed
to prepare the population or make alternative household fuels
available when it halted all transport of charcoal and cooking wood
into the capital in December in a move, officials said, to protect the

Charcoal is the sole source of household fuel for about
99 percent of Chadians, N’djamena residents told IRIN. With the
government blocking all entry of charcoal into N’djamena, and
reportedly confiscating any found in the city, charcoal has become
nearly impossible to come by, aid workers and residents said. And when
it is found, a bag that used to cost about 6,000 CFA francs (US12) is
now sold, clandestinely, at about four times that.
Climate change Government officials said the charcoal ban was part of
an effort to halt tree-cutting for fuel, which they said was essential
to fight desertification. The government has attempted to block
tree-cutting in the past but has severely cracked down in recent
weeks, aid workers and residents told IRIN. “Chadians must find other
ways to cook and forget about charcoal and wood as fuel,” Environment
Minister Ali Souleyman Dabye recently told the media in N’djamena.
“Cooking is of course a fundamental necessity for every household. On
the other hand…with climate change every citizen must protect his
environment.” Officials said the ban includes only charcoal made from
freshly-cut trees, not that made from dead wood lying about. But all
wood and charcoal is being blocked from entering N’djamena, residents
said. Amid panic and protests over the ban another government official
said at a 14 January press conference that the government made a
mistake in not preparing the public, but he announced no change. “It
is a gaffe; to err is human,” said Nouradine Delwa Kassiré Coumakoye,
president of the government’s Social, Economic and Cultural Council.
He called on Chadians to stay calm, saying: “The government can
resolve this crisis and find a solution.” The Chadian Prime Minister
on 15 January met with the leader of a national consumers’ rights
association, according to the government website. Residents and aid
experts told IRIN the charcoal ban has complicated already dire living
conditions in the city. “All families in N’djamena are crying out,”
Delphine Djiraibé Kemneloum, coordinator of the Monitoring Committee
for Peace and Reconciliation, told IRIN. UN-HABITAT’s Nguébétan said:
“This is quite a grave situation because Chadians have always used
charcoal for cooking and for heating water.” Many Chadians also make a
living from selling charcoal. “We all agree that desertification is a
serious problem that Chad must address,” he said. “But the government
must supplement its measures with alternatives for the population.”

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