The thing about deforestation for fuel wood is that it's insidious, subtle, and perhaps not noticeable at a glance. Fuel wood cutting doesn't usually take the big trees- other factors drive that cutting- but the small ones. The take the next generation of trees. What are the long-term consequences for these undercut forests? Probably relatively slow but steady degradation and associated loss of plant and animal diversity.
It's easy for Westerners to chastise cutting forests for fuel (charcoal comes from wood too) since we've long since switched to fossil fuels (i.e. natural gas) or electricity (likely powered by fossil fuels), but this simply distances us from the consequences of our resource use. Clearly our extensive use of fossil fuels has created a massive problem (global warming), so although it may preserve forests in the short term, encouraging a switch from wood to fossil fuels is not a viable long-term solution.
What are the options other than wood or charcoal? At Nyota we use a hot plate when we have electricity and kerosene when we don't. There are many initiatives in the villages to promote more fuel-efficient cookstoves to reduce the demand for firewood. Still, densely populated rural areas will continue to chip away at the forest. It seems that solar cookers should be a viable option here, but I haven't heard a peep about them. I wonder what the barriers are to widespread use of solar cookers?