Fuelwood project activities and progress

Click here for background to the Fuelwood Project

Current activities (2011)

The project has completed its field phase and is currently finalising the data analysis. The results will be disseminated through a leaflet on the sustainable management of the Brazilian caatinga vegetation, written and produced in easily accessible format for stakeholders on the ground. In addition, a series of scientific papers will be produced.

Workshop at Serra Talhada 2011

The Fuelwood final workshop, held in Serra Talhada, Pernambuco from 15-16 March 2011, provided an excellent opportunity for  different stakeholder groups - comprising governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as academics and smallholders - to assess critically: the current/actual status of  knowledge and the existing gaps about the caatinga; strategies for communicating and disseminating mechanisms for sustainable use of the caatinga; and ways of influencing/integrating sustainable management techniques into policy and norms.

The proceedings were opened by the Director or APNE (Frans Pareyn), followed by presentations by other researchers involved in the Fuelwood project, including a presentation on the results of the research work and a visit to the field to assess the management techniques that were applied over the period of eight years.  The rest of the workshop was divided into group discussion and promoted some lively and useful debates on the means of implementing sustainable management of the caatinga.  

It was recognised that better communciation and integration of action among groups working on conservation and sustainable management of the caatinga was needed to reinforce their individual and institutional capacities.  This was urgently needed in order to provide best service to the end users of the natural resources of the caatinga. 

Finding ways of integrating the various strands of group discussion - of pooling information and resources so as to move the caatinga sustainability agenda forward - was a key issue. As a result a real commitment to further the discussions was made by individuals and organisations present at the workshop in order to  bring about practical actions and institutional strategies to strengthen the sustainable use of caatinga vegetation.

Principal results for the period 2002-6

Evaluation of the effects of cutting

A higher percentage of the trees survive after cutting in the dry season than those cut in the wet season. Virtually all the control trees survived. Caesalpinia pyramidalis and Croton sonderianus trees can be cut in either the wet or dry season and have high survival rates and regenerate well. Mimosa survives less well when cut in the wet season, and coppicing in the wet season was particularly harmful to the the survival of Mimosa tenuiflora.

The biomass production after three years was too small for us to recommend reharvesting after such a short time. The next cut will be carried out after five years. The results were obtained through the evaluation of the monitoring of the survival and regrowth.

Coppice regrowth of M. tenuiflora after 1 year Coppice regrowth of M. tenuiflora after 3 years
Pollarding M. tenuiflora Crown thinning regrowth of M. tenuiflora after 3 years
Basic density of the wood from the original trees

The following basic densities (g/cm3) were measured:


Mimosa ophthalmocentra 1.12
M. tenuiflora 1.11
Caesalpinia pyramidalis 1.08
Croton sonderianus 0.87
Anatomy of the wood
Caesalpinia pyramidalis Mimosa tenuiflora Mimosa opthalmocentra Croton sonderianus

Croton sonderianus has semi-ring porous wood which reflects fluctuations in rainfall. The other three species have diffuse porous wood with a variable proportions of axial parenchyma and fibres.

The anatomical studies, wood density and local popularity of these species all show that the wood is suitable for the production of high quality fuelwood and charcoal. A major aim of this project is to assess whether the regrowth wood has the same quality as the original wood.


We have disseminated our results in a variety of ways: lectures to universities, field days and workshops with smallholders and biology and forestry students, posters and talks in national and international meetings and publications.

Field day in Sertania with forestry students from UFRPE and rural smallholders.   Workshop in Arcoverde with a range of stakeholders.
Presentation at Serra Talhada with smallholders, technicians and teachers from the agrotechnical school of Serra Talhada.  
Environmental education

More than 150 students have participated in the monitoring of the trees, including primary school students, undergraduate foresters from the federal university of Pernambuco , undergraduate biology students from Autarquia de Ensino Superior de Arcoverde and the geography undergraduates of the teacher training faculty of Serra Talhada.

Students from the Municipal school Maria Moraes at Caroalina.  

Associated activities

Stimulated by the Fuelwood Project and the relationships it has helped to develop with smallholoders and communities in the caatinga, APNE has gone on to develop a series of associated projects in the area:

Forest Management

In order to meet local demands in forestry management, a pilot forest management scheme has been established in ten selected smallholdings. The development of this project coincided with a proposal from IBAMA (Brazilian Environment Agency) for local action on the improvement of charcoal kilns and forest management.

After selecting suitable smallholdings for participation in the pilot scheme, surveys of forestry and forage plants were carried on the sites. This was followed by elaboration of forestry management plans for the selected properties, working together with the smallholders. As a result, simplified sustainable forest management schemes were established in selected locations varying from 75 to 170 hectares.

It is hoped that these pilot schemes will serve as the basis for decision-making by government institutions such as IBAMA, helping to re-evaluate and adjust the current model for forestry management legislation. It is also expected that when the results of the Fuelwood Project research become available, these will be incorporated in the pilot scheme as part of the forestry management plans.

Charcoal production research

The charcoal production action plan aimed to improve the quality of charcoal and ensure sustainable levels of consumption by users (industrial/domestic) in the region. To this end, research was carried out to compare the quality and quantity of charcoal produced by the traditional methods and those of a newly built rabo quente kiln. The results demonstrated that both kilns (traditional and rabo quente) were similar in terms of efficiency. Despite some operational advantages evident in the new rabo quente , such as faster burning, smallholders and charcoal producers tended to prefer the traditional kiln for charcoal production.

Medicinal plant garden

Two community nursery gardens for medicinal plant were established in Caroalina followed by capacity building in the preparation of seedlings. The women involved in this scheme also participated in exchange visits to other communities in the area, to learn from their experience in cultivating medicinal plants and developing products. The ladies from Caroalina have now established an association and are selling their medicines to local and city markets.

Sustainable use of Caroá (Neoglaziovia variegata)

Between 1940 and 1960 Caroá fibre production was a major economic activity in Caroalina. This fleshy-leaved bromeliad grows abundantly in the caatinga. However, the industry declined rapidly with the introduction of synthetic fibres. The local women recently proposed a revival of the production of Caroá artifacts as a means of generating work opportunities. A project in support of this initiative, with funding from PETROBRAS, includes the following components:

  • Sustainable management of Caroá
  • Analysis of the properties of the fibre
  • Introduction of better production techniques
  • Management, design, sale and distribution of Caroá products.
  • Exchange visit to Conceição dos Salgueiros/PE, to learn about the Caroá production and products
  • Training in the use of specialized equipment
  • Extraction, weaving and colouring techniques for tapestry, sandals, handbags and paper
  • Identification of appropriate sites for caroá collection