Bioenergy is the most commonly used energy source in many regions of West Africa, but its use is often not sustainable - neither for people nor for nature. The combustion of biogenic (e.g. wood, charcoal, dung) or fossil fuels (e.g. coal, kerosene) in open cooking areas often has serious health effects. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.8 million people die worldwide every year as a result of air pollution caused by the inefficient use of fuels (WHO 2018). Women and children are most affected, because they spend more time indoors than men do.
Furthermore: the FAO estimates that an African average of 2.4 tons (!) of wood is needed to cover the annual requirement of a family of four for wood/charcoal to cook, (FAO 2017). To cover this demand, more wood is often taken from forests than can regrow. This leads to soil and forest degradation.
So bioenergy is a problem? Used in this form, the answer is clearly "yes". However, bioenergy can also help to solve the problems described. Biogas can be produced from biological household waste and agricultural residues through anaerobic fermentation. This biogas can be filled into bottles or so-called "biogas backpacks" and used as cooking gas. Cooking with this gas is harmless to health and is not necessary to "exploit" forests for wood or charcoal (fona 2019).
Many regions could produce more biogas from their residual and waste materials than is needed for cooking. This gas could, for example, be used for low-emission engines for scooters and thus contribute to better air quality in cities. The use of waste to produce biogas can also help to establish a sustainable waste collection system. In this way, bioenergy contributes not only to SDG 7 but also to SDG 15 "Life on Land" and possibly also to SDG 11 "Sustainable Cities and Communities".