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Prog Food Nutr Sci. 1989;13(3-4):349-61.

Nutritional impacts of an increasing fuelwood shortage in rural households in developing countries.

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Department of Human Nutrition, Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Developing countries face the problem of an increasing fuelwood shortage. For rural households, fuelwood is the main source of energy. As energy is essential to make food suitable for human consumption by means of cooking, the present fuelwood crisis could jeopardize the nutritional situation of rural households. This article reviews and analyses available data and information on the relationship between the availability of fuelwood and the nutritional situation of rural households. Based on analysis of emperical studies, three main strategies evolved by rural households, especially by the women within these households, to cope with a shortage of fuelwood can be distinguished: (i) increase in time and energy spent on fuelwood collection, (ii) substitution of fuelwood by alternative fuels and (iii) economizing on the consumption of fuelwood and alternative fuels. These coping-strategies affect food supply, food preservation, preparation and distribution, income generating activities and food consumption, all of which result in a decrease in quality and quantity of food consumed and in a deterioration of physical condition, especially women and their young children. Available data on fuelwood availability and nutrition are rather diffuse and incomplete. The presence of several confounding variables in the studies analysed make it difficult to establish the nutritional impact of a growing shortage of fuelwood. Nevertheless, it is concluded that a shortage of fuelwood plays at least an important role in changes in nutritional situation of rural households. If current trends continue, this role will become more important and evident. The impact of a growing fuelwood shortage should be a point of concern for rural development.

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