Kenya Afforestation Charcoal – A Community Driven Commercial Afforestation
Reviewed by Timothy Byakola, CDI / INFORSE East Africa, Uganda.
Background and Context
Although potentially renewable, forest resources in Kenya are exploited at
a higher rate than their supply is renewed, rendering them non-sustainable
Increased water runoff contributes to greater soil erosion and downstream floods. Firewood is mainly a rural fuel with over 90% of Kenya’s rural population dependent on it. Charcoal made from wood, on the other hand, is produced by rural people as a source of income. Charcoal is mainly an urban fuel, with 82% of the urban population using it. Increasing urbanization of the population (7.4%) and the subsequent increase in charcoal consumption has lead to an increase in deforestation. In the 1980s and early 1990s charcoal was mainly obtained from natural woodlands. However, over time, natural forestry resources have declined drastically necessitating deliberate intervention to increase resource supply. Worse still, over 99% of the charcoal produced in the country is processed in traditional earth kilns with a 10% conversion efficiency, so for every 100 kilogram of wood, only 10 kilograms of charcoal is obtained, despite there being technologies with 30% efficiency that can yield three times more charcoal for the same wood.
Determined to make a difference in this region, the Youth to Youth Action Group, with financial support from Thuiya Enterprises Ltd., initiated the community-driven commercial afforestation project in 2002 on 200 hectares of land, in Madiany Division, to enhance the livelihoods of the local communities. The project promotes the growing of Acacia xhanthophloea and Acaciapolyacantha for charcoal. Acacia xhanthophloea,commonly referred to as Naivasha thorn or fever tree (Alii in Luo), is a fast growing acacia species that grows at a rate of 1.0 metre to 1.5 metres per year, thriving at altitudes of 600-2100 metres above sea level, and ideally suited to near swamps, along rivers or lakesides.
This project has demonstrated that it is possible to produce and market charcoal sustainably.
Revenues come to farmers from short seasonal crops for the first and second year. In the third to sixth year, they get income from honey, poultry and dairy goats. In the third year, farmers are loaned one beehive for every 500 Acacia trees planted, with an anticipated yield within three months, providing interim income. The farmer repays RAID for the beehive with 2 kg (US $ 6) of honey from every harvest (US $ 24 per year) for three years. Dairy goats and poultry will be introduced in 2009. The money paid to RAID is used as a revolving fund for buying more beehives. The youth benefit from raising tree seedlings, women from trading in efficient cooking devices, beans and groundnuts, men are mainly involved in tree planting, management and charcoal processing. Women get firewood from tree tops and smaller branches.
from the 200 hectares will provide key actors in the chain with an income
from charcoal of US$1,028,571 after six years. Firewood savings
through energy efficient stoves will save US$20,640p.a., fast-growing crops
US$385,600p.a., transport services US$94,200p.a., wholesaling of charcoal US$214,500
and retailing of charcoal US$321,400. Honey will generate US$ 5,400 per year
for the 60 hives. The number of hives is expected to rise
to 1000 hives earning US$ 90,000 per year. The coordinating CBO, RAID, gets
an income of US$160 from the donor for raising seedlings for every hectare
of trees planted. To date it has earned US$ 32,000 from tree seedlings. The
total financial benefits for all the key actors are about US$ 2,096,911 (charcoal
included) in the six-year rotation period.
Despite the presence of the large market, if those farmers who produce charcoal
find the business environment is not conducive for them to sell profitably,
and are stressed by the current corruption and harassment from the regulators,
it is easy for the initiative to collapse. However, if the enabling environment
improves, and sufficient investment is provided to reach a threshold level
where the initiative expands naturally, then the project will be very successful.
Since it is a business enterprise, whose every activity is valued, sustainability
is assured provided a market exists.
Sustainable Charcoal Production and Marketing in Kenya: A Comparative Analysis
through Participatory Market Mapping”
INFORSE’s Manual’s Charcoal Section: “Sustainable Energy
Solutions to Reduce Poverty in South Asia” http://www.inforse.org/asia/M_III_briquett.htm