Firewood is sold in many urban markets and some rural markets in PNG, particularly in the highlands, but also near major lowland urban centres. In the period 1990–1995, sales of firewood generated an estimated K5 million income for rural villagers. Almost a quarter of the rural population (23%) lived in locations where firewood was sold.
In the highlands, cool night-time temperatures necessitate the use of open fires for heating, as well as cooking. Timber is the most common source of energy used by villagers for cooking. It is also used in urban areas, with much of the firewood purchased in local markets, although kerosene stoves are commonly used in towns. Casuarina oligodon is the most common tree species used for firewood in the highlands. A 1978 study in a Simbu Province village recorded average firewood consumption of 1.3 kg/person/day. A 1980 study in Enga Province estimated that average firewood consumption was 2.25 m3/person/year for rural people and 1.9 m3/person/year for urban people. In rural lowlands villages, most firewood comes from trees cleared during shifting cultivation. Fuelwood plantings to supply PNG’s biggest cities have been promoted sporadically in the Atzera Hills near Lae and in the Port Moresby area.
Firewood is also used for processing tea, sugar cane, copra and cocoa; for small-scale bread baking; and for making slaked lime for use with betel nut. Some of this timber is purchased from villagers; for example, Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd buys firewood locally. Firewood is scarce in some lowland rural locations, including in some villages on the Gazelle Peninsula, but it is not usually traded for cash. Given the increasing population pressure in some rural locations, ongoing urbanisation and the high cost of imported kerosene, demand for firewood is likely to continue to increase. Expanded production of timber for firewood, construction and industrial use has the potential to generate good income for rural villagers.