In the world today, 2.5 billion people depend on charcoal for cooking.

Over the many trips I have made to Somalia since 2002, I developed an interest in charcoal (“makala”). Seeing lines of trucks loaded with charcoal on the roads, I thought that for a country with so few trees, at this rate there would soon be none left at all.

According to the United Nations, of all the trees cut down in the world today, more than half are used to produce charcoal and firewood. Every year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 500,000 hectares of forestland is turned into charcoal. Cambodia has lost more than a third of its primary forests, and much of that has become charcoal, and one of the main uses is to produce steel.