Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
In some cultures, firewood is simply reserved for the kitchen, where it is burnt to generate the energy and nothing more. In these cultures, families fetch firewood from farms, dry them in the sun and later put them to use. It is a source of energy generation for cooking and other uses.
Dry red firewood has another value as a heater, especially during the season of harmattan when the temperature is low. It was common in the North to encounter people cycling round a piece of burning wood to warm themselves particularly in the morning.
Firewood was also explored and exploited as a source of income. But these have changed, at least in Kebbi State where it has become a major player in the economic lifeline of the state. Today, the business of firewood has become major source of livelihood for many homes. It has transformed many dealers into millionaires or credible economic players in their localities.
The business of firewood is no doubt booming while its value chain is expanding. More people are realising that it is affordable, friendly to use and even more reliable than some other sources of energy. This has been driving the new fondness for the business of firewood.
Alhaji Issa Hassan is a dealer of firewood. The 31-year-old trader told Daily Sun that the business of firewood has turned his life around for the better: “Some seven years ago, I stopped selling kerosene and switched to the firewood. It was at a time of acute scarcity of PPM products in the state. That move was not a bad one at all as it has turned my fortunes around.
Hassan, an indigene of Birnin-Kebbi, has no regret jumping into the firewood business, which he started with about N300,000: “When our efforts to get kerosene became hectic, I decided to divert my capital into firewood business. It was a good move.
“When I started, I was alone. But today, I have 20 boys working with me with total investment of about N3 million.” He explained that the business is booming because many households could not afford to buy gas or kerosene for their daily needs: “These families have since reverted to the traditional mode of cooking with firewood
“My customers are largely housewives, food vendors and restaurant owners. Everyday, I receive a load of canter truck which costs about N100,000. Before three days, all these firewood would be finished. So, I always request for a truck of firewood per day to satisfy my teeming customers.”
He pays his boys daily allowances to sustain them: “After paying them, I am still making a profit of N8,000 on each of the trucks I buy for N100,000.” He disclosed that the business is dull during rainy season:
“We don’t receive much firewood from our supply from Bagudo, Dankingeri and Kangiwa towns. Apart from this, this business has really helped me a lot, growing from a one-man business outfit to a major dealer of firewood with workers on my payroll. I cannot be any less grateful to Allah.”
Hassan is Chairman, Firewood Dealers Association (FDA) in Birnin-Kebbi Local Government: “Because of the soft loan that I received, I have also extended the same gesture to 500 people who are now doing their small scale business on firewood. Today, I have two wives and five children. I would make sure that all my children get a better education than I did in my time.”