Kenya sees cash cow in charcoal

January 14, 2009 12:00 am

, KENYA, Nairobi, Jan 14 – The government is working on a draft law that will give the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) authority to regulate the production, transportation and marketing of charcoal.

At a regional workshop in Nairobi on Wednesday, Forestry and Wildlife Permanent Secretary (PS) Mohammed wa Mwachai said this would commercialise the production and marketing of wood fuel, whose annual turnover is estimated at Sh32 billion.

“82 percent of urban dwellers depend on charcoal as a fuel source. In spite of the significance of charcoal in the national economy, there is still lack of a clear legislative framework to regulate it, resulting in a stifled industry.”

“There is a dynamic market for charcoal throughout the country, and although large quantities of the product are consumed annually, the production is invisible, unregulated, disorganised and characterised by corrupt practices, giving the industry a semi-illegal status and negative image,” wa Mwachai said.

The PS said that the charcoal burning industry, which is common in parts of the North Rift, South Rift and Highlands, provides a source of living for at least 200,000 individuals at the production level alone.

He said that the ministry intended to work closely with relevant institutions and other land use sectors, to internalise the costs of forest management in providing sustainable afforestation services.

The new Forest Policy, which is in Parliament, will assist in implementing the Forest Act (2005) that aims to realise at least 10 percent forest cover by the next decade.

The draft policy proposes to improve the wood energy supply-demand balance for households and rural industries through improved management of woody resources at the relevant levels, promote efficient conservation technologies and strengthen institutional planning, coordination and monitoring capabilities through comprehensive and integrated strategies.

“Since most wood fuel consumption is for subsistence use, its contribution to the country’s economy has remained unregulated and yet large quantities are consumed annually.”

“With the increasing globalisation of the world’s economy, the availability and effective use of wood fuel has a critical role in the country’s progress towards sustainable development,” the PS explained.

He elaborated that the forests and bush, which were the traditional source of wood fuel were increasingly diminished, citing that in parts of high potential areas, the problem of obtaining adequate quantities of wood fuel comes as the second priority, after obtaining food.

The Forestry PS stressed that these suggested measures were necessary for semi-arid areas, where the natural bush cover exists but is being cleared at an alarming rate to supply charcoal for the urban population.

KFS Director David Mbugua said that once the legislation is in place, they would be able to charge levies that would go towards the conservation of forest lands.

“In incorporating these rules we’ll also expect enhanced government revenue by way of taxation. Most of the money that comes from charcoal is left at police road checks and this is money that should go to government to help the sector. We have a feeling that we can reduce the amount of destruction that is being meted out on our fragile system.”

The workshop, which brought together officials from the ministries of Local Government, Energy, Environment and Mineral Resources, Provincial Administration and Internal Security, is a culmination of consultations with stakeholders at regional meetings in Mombasa and Nakuru on fine-tuning the draft rules.


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