The GEF Small Grants Programme

in Uzbekistan

Firewood is a renewable energy source

We have already noted, where possible, that the land must be constantly covered with vegetation so as not to lose its productive functions. "What does firewood have to do with it?" - you ask.

The population of Uzbekistan as of July 1, 2016, was already almost 32 million people [1] and, according to various estimates, will continue to grow until 2050. Almost half (49%) of the population lives in rural areas, where the main source of energy (for heating and cooking ) are firewood. Depending on the location and conditions of the availability of other energy sources, the share of biomass (firewood, dung) makes up from 35% to 85% of the energy consumed by the rural population. In other words, almost 16 million people in our country get more than 50% of their energy from burning wood.

What is firewood? Firewood is former trees and shrubs that have been cut down to be used as fuel for heating and cooking. There were trees, shrubs that made up the forest, covered the soil with vegetation, and which turned into heat energy and, ultimately, simply into smoke from the chimney of the stove that heats the house or on which food is prepared.

Unfortunately, Uzbekistan is no exception to this trend. The situation with deforestation in our country is threatening: where there used to be forests, now there is a desert. On one of our project territories, aksakals remember that when they were small, they were afraid to run into the saxaul forests growing near the village - they were so dense and how many animals there were. Now, next to the village there is a desert, where even the roots of the old trees have disappeared. And along the coast of Aydar-Arnasay there is a mountain range called Pistalitau, which means “mountains covered with pistachio”. And they really were there. There is not a single tree there now. And so, unfortunately, throughout the country.

Slopes devoid of vegetation. Farish district, Jizzakh region

This catastrophic situation must be stopped. How important is the felling of trees and bushes? It seems that this is just an aesthetic problem. But this is not at all the case. The loss of vegetation has a direct bearing on the country's development. Deforestation and loss of vegetation are dangerous for many reasons:

  • By destroying forests and its vegetation, we are destroying the base for obtaining direct products from them - people lose access to nuts, berries, fruits, mushrooms, medicinal herbs, timber, livestock feed and other products important to the local population. If there is no forest, there are no these products, which means that the local population, which depends on these products, is poorer.
  • Losing vegetation, we completely change the water flow, transferring it from subsoil to aboveground. And this is a huge blow to agriculture. Vegetation performs an enormous function of water transit from precipitation to soil and back. If there is no vegetation, water is not absorbed into the soil, but quickly runs down the soil surface (surface runoff) without saturating the soil with moisture. What is the threat? First of all, this has enormous consequences for agriculture in the form of a seriously altered water balance, damaging soil fertility and the productivity of crops grown on the land. In addition to water balance, runoff also increases water erosion, which also contributes to soil degradation by washing away the fertile soil layer. In fact, we completely change the water balance and the amount of moisture available for growing crops in the soil. This has long-term threatening consequences for the food and economic security of our country.
  • One of the particular consequences of a change in the water balance and an increase in surface runoff is damage from natural disasters - an increase in the volume and speed of surface water runoff in a short period of time, and subsequent drought. When precipitation falls, the water is not retained by vegetation, is not absorbed by the soil, but flows in a rapid stream into surface water arteries. Losses from mudflows, landslides, subsequent droughts can amount to millions of dollars.
  • The loss of vegetation is also of critical social importance to the local population. Most of the household work is done by women and children. The process of finding firewood for home heating and cooking in conditions of fuel shortage takes more and more time, taking this time away from education and other useful activities. When you can study, or sew, or chat with parents or children, or do whatever, people have to waste time collecting fuel. Often any firewood is used for heating, even living, which means damp vegetation that burns with a lot of smoke. This negatively affects the health of people, especially women and children, who are forced to breathe in smoke. There is no need to talk about how the poor health of the population, the lack of education, the lack of time spent with peers, with parents, and more, affect the development of the country.
  • By cutting down a tree or shrub, we destroy habitats for animals, insects and other plants. And their role is difficult to overestimate for the stability of the entire ecosystem. If the value of animals is difficult to explain to the layman, but the influence of pollinators on yields, you can probably understand. There is no vegetation on which pollinators live, there are no pollinators themselves, which means there is no harvest.
  • All plants capture carbon from the atmosphere, from a gaseous state, and convert it into their biomass, store carbon. It is extremely important not to allow its release into the atmosphere - another important function that is relevant for the processes of maintaining the climate balance.
  • Trees simply produce oxygen;
  • And many, many other vital functions

The process of people cutting down trees and any other vegetation for firewood is understandable. Naturally, the population of the country is growing and is growing very quickly. Every family, every house needs to heat the house, prepare food. And the supply of energy does not keep pace with such an increase in the population's demand for fuel. Of course, people will cut down vegetation for firewood. And since people only cut down, they do not plant anything in return, the huge number of livestock does not allow the natural process of renewal to take place, we are losing more and more vegetation, we are losing the forests of our country.

WHAT TO DO? What are the ways to solve the problem?

The GEF SGP offers a simple way out of the situation. FIREWOOD is an undeservedly ignored, renewable energy source. It's simple. As they live, plants capture carbon from the atmosphere, converting it into biomass, which we can use as fuel. So if we grow plants for firewood, we are actually taking carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back when we burn firewood. If you use as much as you produce, then you are carbon neutral and not emitting excess carbon into the atmosphere. This means you are climate neutral. You are producing "clean", "green" energy without impact on the global ecosystem. But for this you need to not just take wood from nature, hoping that it will grow again there. And grow this wood yourself.

unenviable landscape when there is no vegetation

This does not require any urgent government decisions, no subsidies, or new laws, or money to solve this problem. All you have to do is just do it this way. So that everyone grows firewood for themselves on their own. And then all of us together can simply and easily solve this problem ourselves!

We reach out to all people living in the countryside, all teachers in schools, colleges, and parents!

Let's all cultivate a simple habit in ourselves and in our children - plant your own "wood" yourself. One household needs on average 3-7 m3 of firewood per year. This is roughly 3-5 mature trees. If everyone plants 5 trees a year, then each family can provide themselves with firewood without cutting down the wild vegetation. So we will preserve wild vegetation and, perhaps, it will also have a chance for self-healing.

But you need to plant every year, not one year, and then relax. 5 trees every year. This is not difficult. Don't stop even if you run out of wood. We have a moral obligation to future generations for the trees we have cut down. The more trees we plant, the better we will make our country. 5 trees a year is not that much, and not that difficult. Let's cultivate this habit in ourselves and in our children.

There are a lot of places where you can plant trees for your firewood - you can plant along the fence, in the corner of the site, along the irrigation ditch, along your field, plant where the ravines begin, wherever there is a piece of land.

We are releasing a guide to help every family on earth grow and harvest firewood. Anyone can use this guide and not only grow firewood for themselves but also make it their own business. This is our second suggestion.

Firewood - as a business

The fact is that 80-85% of the territory of our country is occupied by steppes and deserts. At first glance, these are unproductive lands. On the other hand, these lands are perfect for growing desert vegetation, which can be converted into a highly profitable product - high-calorie wood fuel. Such fuel is highly valued not only in the domestic market but can also be exported.

The GEF SGP continues to promote the idea of ​​people creating a firewood growing business. We ordered an economic analysis [2] and below are the preliminary results of the analysis.

For the calculations, data from the GEF SGP projects on the reconstruction of the desert ecosystem were used. One of these projects was successfully implemented on the territory of 60 hectares of the Dzharkurgan region, Surkhandarya region, which was launched in 2009. We wrote about the results in our previous issue.

The calculations were based on the following input data and assumptions.

  • Investment is defined as the initial cumulative cost of establishing a saxaul plantation. These costs include seeds, labor, initial cultivation of the land, materials for the construction of the fence. Since these costs are incurred at the very beginning of the project, they are considered as an initial investment in the context of NPV and refer to the zero period;
  • Current prices are based on 2016. At the same time, to reflect the cost of resources and benefits over time, a discount rate of 10% is adopted. This means that the increase in the cost of resources and future benefits does not exceed 10% per year. This discount rate, although it exceeds the refinancing rate of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan (9%), is nevertheless conservative, based on the fact that supply and demand for these resources and benefits are not subject to high volatility;
  • The minimum area of ​​the plantation is taken for 10 hectares, at which a full return on the initial investment and subsequent costs for maintaining and caring for the plantation is possible;
  • The calculations were carried out for a period of 10 years, since a full-fledged collection of timber can begin only in the sixth year of the project. The felling should be balanced, which will yield at least 0.5 tonnes of saxaul and 0.5 tonnes of cherkeznik per hectare annually. This takes into account that wood will generate cash income;
  • Livestock grazing is foreseen from the beginning of the third year. In this case, it is necessary to maintain a balance. For calculations, the feed base was converted into a conditional equivalent of feed for small cattle, based on an annual feed supply of 1.5 tons / ha at a price of 300 soums per kg. This means that the owner of the plantation can save about this amount on the purchase of feed annually and this will be reflected in the profit from the sale of small cattle;
  • To protect the territory from overgrazing and illegal felling of trees, it is envisaged to have one guard starting from the first year of the project. It also provides for the construction of a fence around the perimeter of the territory;
  • For temporary employees, daily wages and meals are provided. The cost of a working day for one employee is set at 50,000 soums.

By summing up the costs and potential benefits over the entire 10-year period of the project, the bottom line can be estimated and the net present value of the project can be derived.

Table 1: Calculation of the profitability of a 10 ha saxaul planting project.


Investments, sum

Costs, sum

Benefits, sum

Profit, sum
















































Table 1 shows the values ​​of the initial investment, total costs, benefits and profits for each year. The project becomes self-sustaining in the seventh year, when the final profit covers all previous costs and investments. It can be seen that the profit without taking into account investments at the end of the 10th year of business is 64.2 million soums. The net present value (NPV) of the project is 16.4 million soums - this is the net profit, taking into account the coverage of all costs and investments, expressed in current prices in 2016. The internal rate of return (IRR) is 21%, which is higher than the discount rate (10%) and the project can be considered profitable.

Taking into account the above calculations, although they are estimates, based on an approximate monetary estimate of the possible benefits from the use of the fodder base of the project site and the sale of wood on the local market. To avoid optimistic forecasts, a conservative approach was chosen, in which the costs are reflected in full, and the potential benefits are based on the minimum acceptable values. It is possible that in the calculations there were some errors in the direction of exaggerating the monetary value of benefits, but even in this case, these errors cannot significantly affect the assessment of the project as self-sustaining, at least.

We have not yet made comparisons with the use of the desert in its current state as pasture land, in many cases highly degraded, but given the amount of existing areas in the country's deserts, anyone can guess how much benefit we can get from using deserts as land for firewood plantations. ...

Therefore, plant trees for yourself every year, even if tomorrow you cut them down for firewood. But in any case, you will not cut trees from nature, and you will consume exactly as much as you have grown.

And one more big request - spread this appeal as widely as possible, among your friends and relatives. The more people read and understand this, the more trees we will grow and save in our native Uzbekistan.

P.S. We have an announcement. Follow the announcement. In speed, we will display the book "Plant the wood yourself!". There, our famous forester Abdusalom Normatov gives the types of trees, how to plant them and how to collect firewood from them. It is already being printed. How it comes out, we will immediately expose, and whoever wants, contact us, we will definitely give a copy.

[1] Demographic situation in Uzbekistan

Satellite images show a clear trend - the process of forest area loss is underway all over the world. Over the past 10 years, the area of forests around the world has decreased by more than 1.2 million square kilometers (this is almost like 3 territories of Uzbekistan). Every year, according to various estimates, more than 6 million hectares of forest are cut down worldwide.

[2] Economic analysis was carried out by NGO KRASS, Khorezm