Biomass is the main source of energy for households in Kenya, and a major energy source for the country as a whole. In 2013, 72% of the country’s total primary energy supply came from bioenergy and waste. A large share of the biomass used is in the form of charcoal, which provides 82% of household energy in urban areas, and 34% in rural areas, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The charcoal sector employs nearly 900,000 people in production and trade, and has been estimated to contribute 1.6 billion USD per year to Kenya’s economy.

In Kenya, demand for wood is estimated at 41.7 million m3 per year, including 18.7 million m3 for fuel wood and 16.3 million m3 for charcoal, but the amount that can be harvested sustainably is estimated at just 31.4 million m3. That means that every year, Kenya is losing 10.3 million m3 of wood from its forests, a serious environmental concern.

Several countries, including Kenya, have tried to ban charcoal production in order to protect forests, but given that charcoal production and sales occur mostly in the informal sector, those efforts have failed. Since 2009, Kenya has been trying a different approach, adopting policies and regulatory frameworks to formalize the charcoal sector. This discussion brief, which is based on a workshop hosted by SEI and UNDP in Nairobi in June 2016, examines the progress to date, opportunities still to be realized, and key challenges ahead.

The brief is meant to inform policy-makers at the national and county levels, with special attention to the potential role of charcoal-sector measures in helping Kenya to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% from business-as-usual levels by 2030. Several of these measures could also contribute significantly to rural development and poverty reduction.

The analysis focuses on should be prioritized in the effort to make charcoal production in Kenya more sustainable: research, laws and regulations, standards, technology, and climate finance.

Download the policy brief (PDF, 3.9MB)

Download in low-res (for slower connections, PDF, 955kb)