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SEI brief

Overcoming barriers to sustainable charcoal in Kenya

Charcoal meets the cooking energy needs of over 80% of Kenya’s urban population. And the growing gap between supply and demand of the commodity will only expand unless action is taken. Imports from neighbouring countries fill some of this gap, but not all. This brief discusses routes ahead.

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Johnson, O., Wanjiru, H., Taylor, R. and Johnson, F. X. (2018). Overcoming barriers to sustainable charcoal in Kenya. SEI Discussion Brief. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm

Through a mix of regulation, promotion of improved kilns and cookstoves, and support of alternative fuels, Kenya seeks a dual approach of increasing the sustainability of charcoal production, trade and consumption, while also providing opportunities for fuel switching. This brief explores the barriers to achieving a more sustainable charcoal sector.

Man on motorbike delivering sacks of charcoal. Photo: SEI.

These include: 

  • Limited financing for sustainable charcoal activities
  • Weak enforcement of sustainable charcoal permits
  • Competition from alternative cooking fuels
  • Low capacity to comply with regulation

The authors conclude that coordinated efforts are required to strengthen the capacity of the implementing entities and charcoal producer associations, and to ensure that the enforcing agencies speak to each other in order to address any concerns that may be raised by actors in the market chain.

In the long-term, other, cleaner and more sustainable fuels may replace charcoal. But in the short-and medium-term, investments in sustainability of this important urban fuel are imperative to ensure that Kenya’s natural forest resources are responsibly managed.


Download the brief / PDF / 2 MB

SEI authors

Profile picture of Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

Francis X. Johnson
Francis X. Johnson

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

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