As rapid urbanisation increases overall energy demands in West African cities, Dr Roy Maconachie, Lecturer in International Development, has been exploring the future of fuel wood as a sustainable domestic energy resource.

The three-year project, funded by the Department For International Development (DFID) has been looking at urban growth, domestic fuel and sustainable development in northern Nigeria for the past two years.

The project is run in conjunction with academics at the University of Birmingham and Bayero University Kano in Nigeria and has been examining sustainable agro-forestry practices and the affects the changing global economy has upon them.

Now Dr Maconachie has documented his research on film and produced a six-minute digital video which he filmed and edited himself.

He said: “A lot of people have the idea that poor people in developing countries are bad resource managers and there is a misperception that they cut down trees without any forethought. But in and around the northern Nigerian city of Kano, there has been a lot of research into the sustainability of agro-forestry systems that suggests this just isn’t true.

“For many years, people in Kano’s hinterlands have sustainably integrated trees onto their farm plots, which boosts soil fertility. Trees are valued as an economic resource and people take care of them.

“One of the things we are looking at is how urbanisation and a rapidly changing global economy are challenging the way in which these sustainable practices operate. The project will generate qualitative and quantitative data that we can compare to earlier work done 25 years ago by one of the partners, Dr Reginald Cline-Cole from the Centre for West African Studies at the University of Birmingham. So there is an important longitudinal focus to the work.

“We are also working closely with geographers at Bayero University Kano, and there is a strong capacity building element to the project. Staff and students at Bayero University are engaging in an important piece of academic research that has valuable policy implications for urban and natural resource planning, and household energy decision-making.”

Dr Maconachie made field visits to Kano in November 2010 and 2011 and is due to return again in November 2012 to continue collecting data.

The project is funded by the UK’s Department For International Development and is administered by the British Council under the Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE) programme. The project has received a grant of £60,000 and research activities are scheduled to continue until September 2013.