Sarah Wiener completed Master of Science in Forestry in Spring 2014. Her research was based in three villages of the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Non-timber forest products, particularly fuelwood, are a vital part of daily life for most of the rural, developing world. In South Africa, 80% of rural households use fuelwood for some or all of their energy needs. The collection and combustion of fuelwood has implications for gender equality, respiratory health, woodland vitality, and climate change. Many South African households can now choose between collecting fuelwood and purchasing electricity because of a widespread post-Apartheid rural electrification scheme. Sarah’s main research question focused on why are so many households still heavily dependent on fuelwood? While the cost of electricity is arguably the most pressing reason, do household dynamics such as age and gender composition also play a role?
Sarah conducted surveys of households and household members to inquire about fuel use, fuel preference, and perceptions of the woodland regulatory system, with a focus on differences between generations. She determined how preferences and habits are shifting from the elderly to the youth and what household factors affect fuel choices. These preferences and factors have large implications for the future of fuelwood use and the electricity infrastructure of South Africa.
Sarah is currently a project coordinator at the Southeast Regional Climate Hub of the US Forest Service in Raleigh, NC.