Poor charcoal production techniques fuel tree cutting in Kenya

Prosopis charcoal in Kibera, Nairobi – Kenya. CIFOR / Axel Fassio

The use of inefficient charcoal production methods accelerates the cutting of trees in Kenya by charcoal producers, as it remains a key energy source in the country.

A new to study conducted by scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research and Global Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) and partner organizations show that charcoal producers have little or no support to engage in tree replanting, which could lead to a drop in the rate of deforestation in already scarce areas where most charcoal of wood is produced.

“Charcoal production practices and technologies are still very traditional and unnecessary; there are a lot of unnecessary logging and most landowners and charcoal producers are not involved in tree planting, nor in any tree management practice that would promote regeneration and growth of trees. trees ”, according to the authors.

Producers use traditional and inefficient earthen kilns to make charcoal, which scientists say wastes wood, requiring the cutting of more trees to meet the growing demand for charcoal in Kenya, where d other cooking energy alternatives remain beyond the reach of many.

Producers also said that they rarely undertake pre-drying of the wood, which will improve the efficiency of their production process.

Each kiln was found to produce about six bags per cycle, a volume achieved with an efficiency of 10 to 20 percent, with up to 80 percent of all the wood wasted in the manufacturing process.

In 2000, it was estimated that around 1.6 million tonnes of charcoal was consumed in the country each year, but this figure had risen to 2.5 million tonnes by 2013. Thus, with an efficiency of 10 to 20 percent of earthen mound kilns, it would mean that at least 25 million tonnes of wood would be needed to meet this ever-growing demand.

Research reveals that between 40 and 75 percent of charcoal is produced in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) where trees are already scarce. He also found that consumer preferences led growers to use specific tree species like the Acacia spp, which run out quickly in areas where it was available.

The naturally propagated tree has rarely been supported to regrow, with most landowners (up to 70 percent) saying they do not engage in any management practice that promotes tree regeneration after harvest. which poses a threat to their existence.

Landowners said they lacked tree planting and management skills and most native trees regenerate naturally, so they saw no need to participate in supporting their regeneration.

Only four percent had received support for tree planting activities, including providing tree seedlings, raising awareness of the need to plant trees after felling and the importance of using wood. death / windfall in charcoal production, training / information on agroforestry, intercropping and other environmental conservation practices, marketing and training in pruning techniques

The charcoal sub-sector remains one of the most important sources of energy in Kenya, especially in rapidly expanding urban areas, with around 60 percent of consumers relying on this product as an energy source. main, according to research, whose consumer study focused on Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya’s two largest cities.

The researchers called for switching to greener cooking solutions to tame the growing demand for charcoal and improve production technologies to reduce unnecessary tree felling.

“Contrary to long-held energy ladder assumptions, people are folding or stacking energy sources to manage expense, reliability, meal diversity and cultural preferences,” said Phosiso sola, who led the study. “Therefore, the solution is not only transition, but also reducing the amount of charcoal consumed in the household energy mix by using more efficient stoves and ensuring efficient and sustainable supply and production of charcoal.

Research recommends that landowners, charcoal producers and traders receive support to address various challenges and improve value chain efficiency to keep more trees in the landscape and earn more income .

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