Tanzanian authorities on Monday launched a campaign aimed at mobilizing people to use alternative energy, including using gas for cooking, to stop deforestation.
January Makamba, the Minister for Energy, said the first phase of the campaign will be done in 38 districts in 14 regions where poor families that use firewood for cooking will be given cooking gas cylinders free of charge.
Addressing public rallies in Butiama, Musoma and Bunda districts in Mara region at the start of the campaign, Makamba said the government will reduce levies imposed on gas to make it affordable to poor households.
The minister added that about 22,000 people die in the country annually from respiratory ailments caused by the use of firewood and charcoal.
According to state-run Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS), Tanzania has approximately 39.9 percent of forest cover but the country has an annual deforestation rate of about 1 percent, which is around 400,000 hectares.
TFS says between 1990 and 2010, Tanzania lost 19.4 percent of its forested land, or around 8 million hectares.