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The Gap Theory

The "gap theory," often used to justify action in the field of enhancing forest resources as well as wood energy conservation programs, was based on the belief that most, if not all, woodfuels originated from forests. The gap between demand and supply was then used to calculate how long it would take before all the forests would disappear due to woodfuel use. However, 10-15 years of in-depth studies show that non-forest areas supply considerable amounts of woodfuels. In fact, some evidence shows that in many countries a major part, often over 50%, of woodfuels is derived from non-forest areas. These areas include village lands, agricultural land, agricultural crop plantations (coffee, coconut and banana, for example), homesteads, and trees along roads.

farmland with rowcrops of "quickstick" (Glyricidia  sepium).

"10-15 years of in-depth studies have shown that non-forest areas supply considerable amounts of woodfuels."

-APFSOS Working Paper 34

Photo: In southeastern Guatemala a farmer has planted a species of small, nitrogen-fixing tree (quickstick, Gliricidia sepium) on his farmland which is planted in corn, black bean and squash. The tree roots create erosion barriers that capture rainwater, the leaves enrich the soil, and the branches are firewood. The tree vigorously resprouts when pruned.

Information about wood as fuel is adapted from the report: Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study Working Paper No. 34, "Regional Study on Wood Energy Today and Tomorrow in Asia," by Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia.