A history of fear: Imagining deforestation in the West African dryland forests

Jesse C. Ribot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urban demand for woodfuels in Sudanian and Sahelian West Africa has long been assumed to contribute to permanent deforestation in dryland forests and wooded savannas. Deforestation has also long been assumed to be progressing such that these woodlands will no longer be able to provide the region's cities with fuel. Available studies of regeneration do not support the first assumption. Further, woodfuel shortages projected in the 1980s to arrive in the 1990s or early 2000s are nowhere near, while more recent projections predict supply shortages another 25 years hence. While there is deforestation from many causes, the data do not support crisis scenarios concerning woodfuels. Nonetheless, crisis scenarios and policies persist. While there may yet be deforestation due to urban woodfuel extraction, and shortages may be lurking on the horizon, the article explores some possible alternative origins of these woodfuel related deforestation and shortage fears.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-300
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Charcoal
  • Deforestation
  • Drylands
  • Environment
  • Firewood
  • Forests
  • Regeneration
  • Sahel
  • West africa
  • Woodfuel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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