Woodfuels account for over 70% of total primary energy supply and about 60% of the final energy demand. The supply of primary woodfuel in 2009 was estimated to be 20 million tonnes. The supply of firewood was estimated to be 9.2 million tonnes, whilst that of charcoal was estimated to be 2.2 million tonnes in 2009 The bulk of woodfuels amounting to 90% is obtained directly from the natural forest. The remaining 10% is from wood waste i.e. logging and sawmill residue, and planted forests. The transition and savannah zones of Ghana, mainly the Kintampo, Nkoranza, Wenchi, Afram Plains, Damongo districts provide the bulk of dense wood resources for woodfuels.
However, woodfuel resources are depleting at a faster rate as a result of unsustainable practices in the production and marketing of the product that incur high levels of waste. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the rate of deforestation in Ghana is 3% per annum (FAO, 2002).In 2000, the annual production or yield of wood was about 30 million tonnes of which about 18 million tonnes was available and accessible for woodfuels. Although the exploitation of wood resources for woodfuels is not the main cause of deforestation, there are indications that the preferred woodfuel species are gradually disappearing. The major charcoal production areas of Donkorkrom, Kintampo, Nkoranza, Wenchi, Damongo show physical signs of depleted woodfuel resources. As a result, producers have to travel longer distances in search of wood for charcoal production. Charcoal and fuelwood are normally transported from the production centres (mainly in the rural areas) to the major cities and other urban centers where they are sold by wayside retailers to final consumers. A fraction of the charcoal produced is, however, exported to West African and European markets.The woodfuel industry is handled almost exclusively by private individuals with little regulation by the Government. The most recent regulatory measure introduced by the Energy Commission is the ban on the export of charcoal produced from unapproved sources, that is, sources other than sawmills residue or forest planted for that purpose.
Thus, exporting charcoal produced from the direct wood sources, that is, wood harvested from the natural forest, is not allowed. Since July 2003, all exporters of charcoal are required to obtain a permit or license from the Energy Commission.It is estimated that 20 million tonnes of woodfuel are consumed annually in the form of firewood or converted for use as charcoal. A majority of households (about 80%) in Ghana depend on woodfuels for cooking and water heating in addition to commercial, industrial and institutional use, and the demand for woodfuel has for the past years been on the increase. If this trend of consumption continues, Ghana is likely to consume more than 25 million tonnes of woodfuel by the year 2020. Most of the woodfuel supply will come from standing stocks i.e. 15 million tonnes from standing stock and the rest 10 million tonnes from regeneration or yield. This means that woodfuel supply will no longer come from regeneration but from standing stock. The implication is a direct depletion of standing stocks hence an increase in the rate of deforestation.An Energy Use Survey conducted by the Energy Commission in 2010 estimated that about 40.3 % of households in the country use firewood for cooking but the proportion of households in rural areas using firewood for cooking is much higher (62.1%) than in urban areas (25.8%), and also much higher in the Savannah (71.5%) than in the Forest areas (57.2%) and Coastal areas (52%). On average a household in Ghana uses 1,064.7kg of firewood annually, but there are regional and rural/urban disparities.
Households in urban areas consume an average of 986.2kg of firewood per year compared to a rural household of 1,113.4kg. In terms of rural areas, households in rural forest consume an average of 1,085.2kg per year whilst a household in the savannah area is 1,165.5kg of firewood per year.About 78.8% of households in the country use charcoal. The Northern Region has the highest proportion of households (90.5%) using charcoal. About 80.1% of urban households surveyed use charcoal whilst in rural areas, 76.1% of households use charcoal. Averagely, a household in Ghana consumes 434.4kg of charcoal every year.
However, households in the Northern Region consume an average of 510.1kg of charcoal per annum whilst their counterparts in the UpperEast Region consume an average of 363.9kg of charcoal per year. In the case of rural and urban households, it was estimated that an average of 440.2 kg of charcoal is consumed per year in a rural household whilst a household in urban area consumes an average of 430.7kg of charcoal per annum.