Goal 4: Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs (such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy) in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development

Key Messages

  • In the absence of data on interventions to tackle subsistence agriculture as a driver of forest loss, the assessment focuses on indicators measuring support for reduced exploitation of unsustainable woodfuel.
  • Data indicates a steady increase in the distribution of clean cookstoves in the past years, with nearly 20 million new cookstoves and fuels distributed in 2014. Of those, 12.1 million met the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstove’sx definition of clean or efficient cookstoves.
  • Financing for cookstoves has been flat in recent years based on latest Official Development Assistance data, the value of voluntary carbon market transactions and funding channeled through the Alliance.
  • Methods for linking cookstove interventions to other sustainable development outcomes are improving through the use of international cookstove performance standards, yet there is still a lack of ground-level data and research on their impacts. New initiatives and data collection efforts are underway and can potentially fill these gaps.




Goal 4 seeks to address forest loss by supporting economically sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests. Yet, no global datasets quantify government, corporate, or civil society support for alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs; hence the ability to monitor progress toward achievement of this goal continues to be inadequate.

The two criteria identified with sufficient data available relate to the support for clean and/or efficient cookstoves (subsequently referred to as ‘clean cookstoves’) or other strategies to reduce unsustainable woodfuel consumption (Box 1).



The Alliance aims to promote the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households, estimating that US$1 billion in investment would be needed to achieve this target. The World Health Organisation estimated that providing cookstoves to half of the world’s population that still depends on woodfuel would require an annual investment US$34 billion.(24)

Clean cookstoves can reduce deforestation and forest degradation by either replacing the use of woodfuel with alternative energy sources or reducing the consumption of woodfuel through the use of more efficient cookstoves.xi  Clean cookstoves also reduce cardiovascular and respiratory illness associated with woodfuel burning, in particular in women and children who are disproportionately affected by traditional use.





Criterion 1: Global distribution of clean and/or efficient cookstoves

Indicator 1.1: Number of cookstoves distributed

The global distribution of clean cookstoves continues to grow with a nearly 40% increase over the previous year in the number of cookstoves distributed in 2014 (Figure 4). In addition, the distribution of stoves that meet international standards of cookstove and fuel performance has significantly increased in recent years.(25)


Criterion 2: Financial support for woodfuel interventions

Indicator 2.1: Funds spent in support of cookstove programs

Official Development Assistance (ODA), voluntary carbon markets, and funding channeled through the Alliance to support clean cookstove and woodfuel interventions increased substantially from 2011 to 2012 (from US$48 to a peak of 168 million) followed by a decline in 2013, 2014 and 2015 (US$94, 33, and 27 millionxii) (Figure 4). Support is still far from estimated needs to provide clean and healthy energy alternatives to the world’s woodfuel-using population.






Data measuring forest impacts due to basic needs, as well as progress in supporting efforts to address these drivers, is limited. Moving forward, we seek to cooperate with additional research partners that are collecting new datasets on subsistence agriculture to address this gap. Data for both indicators also have several limitations, including the lack of categorization and public availability of information. Significant financing for the sector also comes from private, in-country, non-governmental, or philanthropic donors. These sources are not tracked by comprehensive datasets. In the following we present several initiatives that could potentially address these limitations in the future.


Data Development #1. Linking cookstoves to forest impact

We are in discussions with the Alliance and other partners about the development of criteria to assess sustainable development impacts (e.g. numbers of trees prevented from felling, illnesses or sick days prevented, jobs or income created) of distributing cookstoves. Such criteria could include deforestation and forest degradation specifically and could be linked to the Sustainable Development Goals.


Data Development #2. Forthcoming GFW mapping system on shifting agriculture

The University of Maryland is currently working on a mapping system with the objective of being able to globally differentiate stable agricultural cultivation cycles from unsustainable agricultural shifting patterns. This work will contribute to mapping and tracking shifting cultivation patterns and resulting impacts on deforestation across tropical forest countries.

There is no simple correlation between shifting cultivation and forest loss. Poverty and low-yielding production practices can drive forest loss by increasing the land footprint required for subsistence, but not always, and traditional rotational cultivation is not necessarily bad for forests. While shifting agricultural cultivation is not a central driver of deforestation, it is a type of subsistence agriculture that typically involves small-scale clearance of land by burning plant material or forest cover. Collecting information on shifting agricultural patterns via a geospatial mapping system, as is currently under development, is essential to assessing its real impact on tropical forests.


Data Development #3. National forest reference emission levels include new data

As the number of countries that develop and submit their forest reference (emission) levels to the UNFCCC increases, new data sets on the impact of subsistence agriculture and wood extractions are expected to become available. Where countries have spatially explicit reference levels, they become able to identify areas where farms and communities exercise pressure on forests and will be able to prioritize these areas in their REDD+ strategies.


Data Development #4. Country-specific GACC data on cookstoves

Country-level data on cookstove distribution, adoption, and use could provide insights as to whether countries with the greatest dependence on woodfuel are receiving sufficient support. The Alliance is working to collect relevant data. Recent data indicates that China, India, Cambodia, Kenya, and Nigeria were the top five countries worldwide for cookstoves and fuel distribution by Alliance partners from 2012 to 2014.(26)