Alternatives to Charcoal

Speeches Shim

The USAID Alternatives to Charcoal (A2C) project works to reduce deforestation related to the production of charcoal. USAID A2C takes a market-driven approach to this challenge by catalyzing a shift in household cooking away from charcoal towards private sector-led, low emissions technologies and fuels. In partnership with several line ministries in the Zambian government, we hope to affect this behavior change by reducing market barriers to scale up clean cooking, strengthening the business enabling environment, and leveraging investment in alternative fuels and technologies to protect Zambia’s precious forest resources.

The household energy sector in urban Zambia is dominated by charcoal. Over 75 percent of peri-urban and urban households use charcoal as their primary cooking fuel source, regardless of income. Charcoal is accessible, affordable, and the culturally preferred cooking fuel of choice. The demand for charcoal is rising exponentially, propelling an increase of charcoal production in rural areas and over-exploitation of Zambia’s highly biodiverse Miombo Woodlands.

  • Life of Project: January 2021 - January 2026

  • Geographic Focus: National 

  • Implementing Partner: Tetra Tech ARD

  • Chief of Party: Dr. Catherine Picard

  • Total USAID Funding: $24.9 million

  • USAID Zambia Contact: Dr. Catherine Tembo -


Zambia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, losing between 180,000 and 250,000 hectares each year. Nearly 25 percent of deforestation and forest degradation is attributed to charcoal production. Charcoal use also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions that drive global climate change. Unfortunately, widespread adoption of alternative technologies and fuels is currently hindered by poor enabling conditions, value chain inefficiencies, and cultural barriers. The USAID A2C project addresses these and other barriers to reduce urban demand for charcoal and to protect Zambia’s forest and natural resources for generations to come.

Alternatives to charcoal supported by A2C include stoves powered by electricity, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), bio-ethanol liquid gel, processed biomass (e.g. pellets), and biogas. A range of innovative technologies are also available to increase the efficiency, affordability, and accessibility of these alternative fuels. The A2C project takes a market-driven approach to reduce charcoal energy consumption while working in close partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) to strengthen the ability of private sector partners to increase the availability and adoption of low-emissions technologies and fuels. 

The A2C project works with the GRZ, private sector, civil society, and communities to remove market barriers, raise awareness, and stimulate behavior change to advance consumer adoption of alternatives to charcoal, and strengthen enforcement and monitoring of charcoal regulatory frameworks while supporting alternative livelihoods for former charcoal-producing households. The A2C project is guided by an understanding of the GRZ’s role in regulating this industry, the importance of supporting private sector-led solutions, and a commitment to engaging youth and empowering women.

Expected Results

The Alternatives to Charcoal project seeks to reduce deforestation through the increased adoption and use of alternative technologies and fuels (ATFs) and decreased consumer demand for charcoal. Through the A2C project, we expect to help reduce charcoal energy consumption by 25 percent across Zambia by expanding the use of private sector led ATFs to 83,700 Zambian households. Overall, the project expects to reduce deforestation directly attributable to charcoal production by 6.7 percent.

A2C aims to achieve these results by implementing five overarching objectives:

  1. Identify and remove market barriers to enable the increased use of alternative technologies and fuels (ATFs);
  2. Strengthen the business enabling environment through policy, regulatory and fiscal reforms to support ATFs;
  3. Implement social and behavior change to increase consumer use of ATFs, and increase public awareness of the negative impacts of charcoal;
  4. Support sustainable livelihoods in charcoal producing communities and improve capacity to regulate charcoal supply chains; and,
  5. Integrate collaboration, learning and adaptive management throughout project implementation.
Issuing Country 
Wednesday, April 6, 2022 - 1:45am

Last updated: April 06, 2022