University Of Tasmania
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Production and domestic use of fuelwood on the island of Tongatapu : a holistic approach to describing fuelwood systems and to developing strategies to ensure future sustainability

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posted on 2023-05-26, 20:18 authored by King, LR
Fuelwood is the most significant traditional fuel in developing countries, but serious shortages already exist and are expected to worsen. To achieve an adequate understanding of fuel wood problems it is necessary to be aware of the human and non-human environmental contexts. This study has developed a methodology to facilitate the comprehensive description of fuelwood systems. A major feature of the conceptual foundation for the methodology is the aim to minimise anthropocentric bias. A holistic environmental model based on the identification of physical, biological, and cultural factors has been adopted as the basis for a thematic approach to guide the development of a research programme. The research theme, describing fuel wood systems on the island of Tongatapu in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga, has provided a focus for a range of information collection activities. To assist the attainment of a realistic understanding of the significance of fuelwood to domestic activities, a series of detailed structured interviews was conducted with ninety randomly selected households in six study areas. Surveys of representative agricultural allotments yielded data on relationships between tree cover and land management systems. Valuable information was also obtained from the Tongan government, research organisations, and from the literature. Profiles of the six study areas have been based on natural, domestic, cultivated, commercial, and social systems. Various interactions of elements within these systems were examined to provide a broad comprehension of the fuelwood situation. Fieldwork results indicate that fuel wood is used by almost all Tongatapu households. Fuel wood collection has contributed to significant detrimental impacts on natural ecosystems on common land. As quantities of wood available from such sources have declined, the proportion of households dependent on coconut wastes as fuel has grown. The households with least control over land, and thus with least secure access to fuelwood supplies, were those in peri-urban Nuku'alofa. Programmes of change are needed to regain a sustainable balance between supply and demand. To succeed, they must be well suited to local environmental conditions. A strategy to identify and implement appropriate action should be based on decisions made by those most affected by fuel wood problems. The holistic approach taken to the Tongatapu research could provide the foundation for studies of fuelwood systems in other developing countries. The strategy suggested for initiating improvements requires local communities to be empowered to make decisions about the management of their environments. A review of approaches to development indicates that conventional centralised and market-driven mechanisms of economic development would often impede such a strategy. Locally designed and implemented programmes of change are considered to offer the best route to gaining sustainable benefits.


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Copyright 1991 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves [409]-427)

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