Wednesday, August 05, 2009


The Government of Benin republic has ordered the upward review of petroleum, electricity and water tariff by 18% (eighteen per cent) with effect from the first week of July 2009. This was announced Wednesday by the Minister in charge of Energy and Water Mr. Sacca Lafia. To the average Beninese, this is a disastrous phenomenon occurring at a time when people are still battling to cope with the dividends of a global economic crunch. Following this announcement, there has been restiveness among the populace as not everybody is prepared to bear the burden of increased water and electricity bills just yet. In effect, people are obliged to fall back to traditional habits of fossil fuel consumption using firewood and charcoal. Fortunately, charcoal and firewood exploitation are neither prohibitive nor scarce. There is abundant supply of shea tree in all regions of the country. This abundance has been helpful to consumers in past years, and will prove very feasible this time around. Apart from the numerous uses to which the Shea tree is being employed dating back to centuries, Climate Change Advocates (and that includes all of us); will soon discover that there is more to the tree than just its food, medicinal and industrial value. Industrialists will need substance extracted from the seed of the Shea tree for soap and cream production. Even the bark of this tree has also been employed in medicinal soap production in most West African countries. Most importantly, the wood has been exploited for ages in the production of high quality, long lasting charcoal. Before one thinks of deforestation, it is pertinent to note that the people of Benin republic are not unmindful of the effects of destroying their eco-system through deforestation activities. In effect, for every single Shea tree that is hewed down, at least ten more are planted in its place thus ensuring continuity of exploitation vis-à-vis regeneration. Moreover, the tree is never cut from the root; so that it has chances of sprouting more stems that can be trimmed to rear up another forest in the near future. The charcoal which burns without emitting the much talked about carbon or fume is almost absent in this specie of charcoal from the Shea tree so that not much harm is done to the ozone layer. This charcoal is being used for heating the room, cooking at various levels, large-scale fish drying and fueling industrial furnace. Local restaurants also use it for their beef and chicken barbecue which adds some appetizing and mouth watering aroma to the roast.This product is produced in commercial quantity and is good for use in Europe where there is more cold weather condition for the greater part of the year. Government argues that the reason for the increase is to guarantee uninterrupted water and electricity supply, but most members of the public do not seem to agree with that excuse.