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Title: The charcoal sector in southern Malawi : a livelihoods perspective
Author: Smith, Harriet Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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Charcoal has rapidly become the most widely used domestic source of urban energy for cooking and heating in sub-Saharan Africa, yet much of the sector is informally, or not at all regulated, with consequential detrimental impacts on livelihoods and the environment. Across Africa, 75% of urban growth is occurring in urban areas with populations of less than 1 million. Yet, these charcoal markets, their value chains, and the actors' livelihood outcomes are severely under researched. This thesis focuses on Zomba, a city of 164,000 people in southern Malawi. The research applies questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and a suite of rapid rural appraisal techniques to investigate actors' motivations, roles and livelihood outcomes along the charcoal value chain, examining processes at market, community and individual scales. By viewing the charcoal sector through a livelihoods lens, this thesis attempts to provide evidence and examine its implications for debate surrounding emerging charcoal policies across sub-Saharan Africa. The core findings of this thesis demonstrate that engaging in the production and transportation of charcoal strengthened actors' financial assets and delivered other benefits, such as improved access to goods and services and opportunities for livelihood diversification. These benefits contributed to reducing actors' vulnerability and improved their livelihoods. However, benefits were dependent on resource availability and a lack of charcoal resource management in the region has led to unsustainable harvesting practices. This resulted in localised forest degradation and charcoal-livelihood benefits were subsequently unsustainable in the longer-term. Lack of an environmentally sustainable commercial sector and enforcement of punitive regulations increased actors' vulnerability to reduced income, undermining market and livelihood security whilst having little positive impact on forest resource protection. This thesis provides original insights into the rural components of the value chain of small urban charcoal markets, the motivations of actors and livelihood outcomes. Combining a Value Chain Analysis with the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework supported an analysis of livelihood outcomes amongst actors along the chain and within the same node. The findings identify gendered nuances in participation and livelihood outcomes and in the distribution of enforcements amongst actors. This study confirms the importance of the charcoal sector for rural income generation, provides new context-specific insights into the contribution of charcoal to forest degradation and raises concerns over the levels of rent-seeking activities by authorities.
Supervisor: Hudson, Malcolm Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available