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Plants are an important source of fuel for cooking, boiling water and keeping ourselves warm.

Wood fuel

Currently, wood fuel provides over half the energy used in developing countries, in the form of forest wood or charcoal. Much of this is gathered directly from the wild, putting some tree and shrub species at high risk.


People being shown a kiln in Brazil
People being shown a kiln in Brazil

Kew works with local communities to educate them about the sustainability of local wood for fuel and charcoal production.

Northeast Brazil fuelwood project

An example of Kew's work with local communities is the Northeast Brazil fuelwood project, established in 2001 to facilitate better management of the native caatinga (dry forest) trees preferred by local people for fuel. Its aim is to determine which of a series of harvesting techniques (coppicing, pollarding and crown thinning) is most appropriate for these species, providing sustainable returns of wood.

Other sources of fuel

Fuel can also come from grasses, oil-seed crops (oilseed rape, sunflower oil, palm oil and soybean oil) and sugar. In Brazil, more than four million cars are powered by fuel containing ethanol made by fermenting sugar from sugarcane.