In Senegal, the desert has gained considerable ground in recent years, due to factors ranging from overgrazing of pasturelands by livestock to excessive cutting of forest cover for firewood. Since the 1980s, the country has lost 20% of its forests and timber harvesting by private individuals is now severely punished.
Consequently, people have turned to burning charcoal for fuel, but this is both highly polluting and expensive. More than three-quarters of Senegalese households now use charcoal to meet their daily needs. Only a minority of people can afford to buy bottled gas, a more efficient heat source. Others use whatever they can get hold of, even roofing materials. Clearly, the Senegalese urgently need to find new sources of affordable and sustainable fuel.