Firewood is the main source of energy for cooking and heating for almost all households in rural areas in Kenya; across the country, 68.3% of households depend on it as their main cooking fuel. The firewood is often sourced from farmlands, public and private plantations and indigenous forests as either live or deadwood.

Rural families’ preference for both space heating and cooking from the same source and the high cost and irregular supply of alternative fuel sources such as charcoal, electricity, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene often makes firewood the only viable source of energy. It is expected that biomass will continue to be the preferred domestic energy source in the future, as households do not climb up the energy ladder with increasing income, but rather “stack” various fuels to meet their needs, e.g. kerosene+charcoal or kerosene+LPG+charcoal.

The authors identify three key challenges: an imbalance between biomass supply and demand – 57.2% in 2002 and projected to rise to 63.4% by 2015; a disproportionate burden of firewood use on women; and a general lack of knowledge about how to make firewood use more sustainable.

The brief recommends that, given the importance of firewood in Kenya, it should be directly addressed by energy policy. It also advises a multi-sectoral integrated approach, with county governments leading the effort to build a sustainable firewood production and use system.

Download the brief (PDF, 1.1MB)