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Govt urged to lift ban on charcoal

13 September 2013, 15:31 Leopold Obi

Nairobi - Kenyans consume about 6 850 metric tonnes of charcoal daily, which translates to an annual consumption of an estimated 2.5 million metric tonnes of unsustainably harvested wood. This is according to this year’s survey by International Centre for Research and Agro Forestry (ICRAF).

Charcoal use is likely to continue over the next few decades and this should be used as an opportunity to correct the persistent charcoal crisis in the country, says a research scientist at the Nairobi based World Centre for Agro Forestry.

The charcoal industry is highly regulated hence viewed as illegal in the Kenya.

(A Malindi based trader transports charcoal on a bicycle. Photo: Bob Ndwiga, News24 user)

This restriction on charcoal trade has left a yawning gap in the supply of the product, throwing the country into a spate of scarcity of the commodity which has resulted to sky-rocketing price especially during the rainy season.

“The previous policies to ban charcoal burning and trade in the commodity have not been successful. We should therefore rethink other means of accepting the practice and make it safer,” said the researcher at an interview during a Science Week conference at the ICRAF centre this week.

The country’s leading charcoal hotspots include Narok, Kajiado and Kitui.

The study further indicated a spiraling demand for charcoal fuel due to highly fluctuating kerosene prices and increased LPG gas prices, with an estimated 60% of Kenyans unable to afford LPG gas.

Liyama added that there should be a change of the notion that charcoal fuel is dirty and harmful and urged the government to encourage farmers to plant more trees to make charcoal production sustainable.

“The governments need to come up with policies that would harmonise the system to ensure that corruption and bribery is dealt with,” she said.

“If allowed, farmers in the country could rake in millions that could help improve their living standards as opposed to when they are left on the hands of the oppressive business cartels,” she added.

The findings further show that Kenya’s charcoal industry represents an estimated annual market value of KES 32 billion that is not visible to the government because of its informal nature.

The scientist however warned that once tree species preferred for charcoal production - acacia -are depleted, these charcoal hotspots will shift to arid and semi arid areas.

“Indiscriminate tree cutting would be avoided if farmers adopted a rotational tree cutting and planting system,” observed Liyama.

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