This paper reviews the state of economic understanding about fuelwood in developing countries. It synthesizes the main results from numerous empirical studies with the intent of identifying implications for policy and pointing out where important questions remain unanswered.
Overall, the empirical results reviewed reinforce the contention that households alter their behavior in the presence of sufficient scarcity in ways that are least costly to them. Still, the cost can be substantial and many cases remain where policy intervention is justified to address concerns of both equity and efficiency. Addressing the coping capabilities of the very poor and the open access conditions of woodlands appear to be two ways of dealing with fuelwood scarcity that are likely to yield high social rates of return. Community forestry has the potential to address these two important areas, but there is little evidence to date that this is being done with fuelwood in mind.
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