Fact check: Do 7 out of 10 Ugandans use firewood for cooking?

Arthur Kakande

How accurate is a claim by Amazing Race show host Phil Keoghan that 70 percent of Ugandans use firewood for cooking?

The sixth leg of the Amazing Race, a reality-adventure television series with a number of challenges around the world that competitors have to overcome, took place in Uganda in May 2019. On this leg of the show, host Phil Keoghan claimed that 70 percent of Ugandans use firewood for cooking.

This claim was used as background information in the “Move The Pole” part of the competition, where teams were required to load firewood from a canoe to a bicycle and then deliver it to a market. Upon arrival at the market, the teams had to stack the wood before getting the next clue.

So, the question is, do 70 percent of Ugandans use firewood for cooking?

PesaCheck has looked into the claim that 70 percent of Ugandans use firewood for cooking and finds it to be MOSTLY TRUE due to the following reasons;

Uganda’s energy sector is dominated by biomass, with 9 out of 10 households using either firewood or charcoal for cooking. Clean fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are often unaffordable leaving most households resorting to solid fuels that pose serious health risks such as respiratory infections.

According to the National Charcoal Survey released by the Ministry of Energy in June 2016, charcoal was the main source of fuel for people in urban areas of Uganda while firewood was the preferred source of fuel in rural areas in 2015.

The ministry estimates that firewood and charcoal contribute an estimated USD48 million and USD26 million to Uganda’s GDP respectively. The Biomass Energy Strategy 2013 notes that Uganda’s dependence of tree biomass is unsustainable, with the demand estimated at 44 million tonnes per annum, compared to a supply of 26 million tonnes per annum. The report adds that the government is yet to put in place a regulatory framework that will reduce the cutting down of trees for the production of charcoal.

The survey found that 65.7 percent of households in urban areas were using charcoal, while 33.4 percent used firewood for cooking. The results also showed that only 0.1 percent of the people surveyed used liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), with a majority of households using traditional (three stones, clay and metallic )stoves, which waste a lot of energy.

The 2012/13 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) found that 96 percent of Ugandans use biomass fuels for cooking, with 75 percent of households using firewood as a source of energy.

The report also shows that the number of households using firewood in urban areas had doubled from 15.4 percent in 2009/10 to 36.4 percent in 2012/13, while those using charcoal had decreased from 69.8 percent in 2009/10 to 54.4 percent in 2012/13.

The 2016 Uganda Health and Demographic Survey released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics also shows that 98.3 percent of Uganda’s population was using solid fuel for cooking at the time of the survey, while only 0.6 percent of the population was using clean fuel.

The report adds that 77 percent of the population was using firewood as a source of energy, compared to 20.9 percent using charcoal as their main source of energy.

All the sources of data above show that the proportion of Uganda’s population using firewood as their primary source of fuel has remained above 70 percent since 2009, making the claim by Phil Keoghan that 70 percent of Ugandans use firewood for cooking MOSTLY TRUE.

First published: PESACHECK. Reprint with permission


 

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