Fuelwood is an important source of domestic energy in rural regions of Brazil. In the Zona da Mata of Minas Gerais, native species from the Atlantic Forest are an important source of fuelwood, supplemented by wood from eucalyptus and coffee plantations. The use of native species is complicated by their increasing scarcity and the recent enforcement of forest policies that prohibit the felling of even dead natives trees without a permit. In this study, the factors contributing to the use of fuelwood in this region, despite the simultaneous use of liquid petroleum gas in most households, are explored by examining fuelwood use patterns in four small rural communities in the Zona da Mata Mineira using household surveys and semi-structured interviews. Two hypotheses were tested using a Jacknife regression. The first hypothesis, based on the energy ladder model, tested the predictive power of socioeconomic status in relation to fuelwood use. Two dependent variables were used to represent the importance of fuelwood to a household: the amount of time a household spent collecting fuelwood (Effort) and the number of purposes a household used fuelwood for (Class of Fuelwood Use). Socioeconomic status did explain a statistically significant percentage of the variance in Effort, but not in Class of Fuelwood Use. The second hypothesis tested for a moderating effect of the availability of fuelwood on the relationship between the socioeconomic status of a household and the dependent variables. The interaction between access to fuelwood and socioeconomic status was shown to explain a significant percentage of the variance in Effort, thereby indicating that the effect of socioeconomic status on time spent collecting fuelwood depends on access to fuelwood. However, there was no statistically significant interaction found between Class of Fuelwood Use and fuelwood availability. The Atlantic Forest Policy was found to have little influence on domestic energy decisions made by surveyed households. Few research subjects had a good understanding of the basic tenets of this policy and the Forest Police do not have adequate resources to enforce the policy at this level.
- Brannstrom, Christian Professor and Associate Dean