Zimbabwe: Household Energy Supply

This country synthesis report is based on a detailed country report, which may be accessed through our dynamic report builder is available here.


A Household Energy Demand and Use
B Household Energy Supply
C Household Energy Sector Governace
D Household Energy Information
E Household Energy Case Studies

B. Household energy supply


Zimbabwe is moderately forested with around 22% forest cover and an additional 44 % of other wooded land. Areas of closed natural forest are rare, with the predominant vegetation being "miombo" woodland, an association of Brachystegia spiciformis and Julbernardia spp. Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodland occurs on the northern Zambezi depression and the Limpopo Valley on the southern border. Small remnants of subtropical high forest remain in the Eastern Highlands. Zimbabwe has established significant areas of plantation forests with the most common species being Pinus patula, Eucalyptus spp. and Acacia mearnsii. Zimbabwe has a well-established network of more than 40 protected areas, including the 1.5 million ha Hwange National Park. Around 12% of Zimbabwe's forest area is protected (FAO).

There is skewed wood availability in Zimbabwe with a deficit in the overcrowded communal lands and excess on commercial land. Known areas of acute wood shortage are Zvimba and Seke communal lands. Forests are used primarily for fuelwood, which satisfies 62 % of domestic energy needs.

Wood supply follows a number of different patterns depending upon how and where the wood is obtained: distance from the source, transport and season. The size and weight of load increases as the distances increases. Wood supply is normally provided by women and children who travel long distances in fetch of wood. A head-load is about 15-20 kg and distances travalled vary up to 10 km. Men are normally involved for cutting big logs or for selling. In most cases they use scotch-carts ehere loads of 400-500 kg can be collected once a month.

While wood continues to be collected freely and virtually at no cost by the rural population, there are some areas where wood is already commercialized due to scarcity. In urban areas fuelwood is purchased through wood vendors who travel to farming and other rural areas to source the wood. Mupfuti (Brachystegia boehimiiis) the most preferred species. However, also where wood is freely accessible, its collection is time consuming and creates considerable physical strain for women and girls, who cover long distance in the collection of firewood. (Hancock 1985, ProBEC, GTZ 2002).

Around 2,163,289 (CSO 1992) Zimbabwean households consume an average of 781,280 toes of wood annually (DoE 2001) for fuel.

Wood-dependent households are mostly (around 90%) located in rural areas. While traditional stove technology is simple and does not require maintenance, it also tends to be inefficient. Improved, fuel-saving stoves may offer a long term remedy, but require some investment and continuous maintenance. The difference in performance may be significant though, with traditional stoves running at around 10 % efficiency, while modern stove models approach 30 %. Improved stoves (ceramic and metal ceramic) are mostly supplied through sales in the market, while mud stoves offer a cheap alternative (and can be self-produced by households).

Crop residues / dung

Dung and crop residues are wood substitutes used for cooking, water heating and space heating, which are mainly used in rural areas where wood is scarce (central and lake zones of Shinyanga, Mwanza, Dodoma and Singida). In households with cattle, people make cow dung cakes and leave them to dry, or they collect dry cow dung on the grazing ranges. During the dry season, when there is not enough grass for grazing, dung also becomes scarce. Crop residues are mainly available during the harvesting season, with considerable regional variation. No data are available on the amount of crop residues / dung used by households (toe per annum). Dung is not commercialized.


Charcoal is a very important source of household energy in urban Tanzania. Studies have shown that about 85% of the urban households depend on charcoal for cooking. Charcoal is produced in rural areas, mainly from trees harvested in natural forests. It is widely distributed by middlemen, who handle truckloads of about 150 bags (30kg each). The supply of charcoal to urban areas is very reliable, and decreases slightly only during the rainy season. Traditionally charcoal is used in metal charcoal stoves with low efficiencies of below 15%. A small, but growing number of households have adopted improved charcoal stoves with higher efficiency rates of more than 30%. The lifetime of traditional metal stoves is about six months, while that of improved stoves is about 18 months. The prices also vary, metal traditional stoves cost about 2 Euro, whereas improved stoves cost about 4 Euro on average.


The use of coal by Tanzanian households is negligible, and does not warrant further analysis.


Kerosene is popular among medium and low-income households, because of its generally convenient way of use in lighting and cooking. Despite its popularity kerosene, is often unsafe because of its hazardous exhausts. About 225,778 cubic meters of kerosene were imported in 1997 mostly for household level consumption. About 260,000 households use kerosene for fuel. Kerosene Stoves are popular because they are relatively cheap, and simple to use. They have efficiency rates of about 45 %. While most kerosene stoves still use outdated wicks and vaporizers, more recent pressure burners are gaining ground among Tanzanian consumers. The main disadvantages of kerosene technology lie in the relatively short life-span of the stoves, and the potential risks of their use (fire hazards, burn injuries).


While LPG is generally thought to have considerable potential as a source of household energy, the lack of distribution infrastructure limits its availability. In the few households where it is used, it is preferred for cooking only. LPG stoves mostly are high-pressure gas cookers - similar to the low pressure ones, except that they are attached directly to the gas bottle. Also LPG stoves are in short supply, and tend to be available mostly as single flame cookers. LPG as yet offers a convenient, though supplementary source of household energy to a limited number of people who can afford it.

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Sunday September 19, 2010 18:58:33 GMT.
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