Biomass energy use in Kenya
Biomass energy situation and consequences: Biomass energy provides 68% of Kenya’s national energy requirements and it is expected to remain the main source of energy for the foreseeable future. In 2000, Kenya was reported to use 34.3 million tonnes of biomass for fuel of which 15.1 million tonnes was in form of fuelwood while 16.5 million tonnes was wood for charcoal processed in kilns with only 10% efficiency. Up to 43% of the national consumption was from sustainable supplies while 57% was from unsustainable supplies. Of Kenya’s total land area of 57.6 million hectares, only 6% (3,456,000) is forest cover and is estimated to be decreasing at the rate of 52,000 hectares (0.09%) per year. In 1980, 94% of all the wood harvested in the country was used for woodfuel, 4% for poles and 2% for timber. By 1997, the proportions were estimated to be 90% woodfuel, 5% for industrial feedstock and another 5% for poles and posts. These proportions were projected to remain the same in the year 2000. Although biomass is a renewable resource, the high rate of its extraction and inefficient utilization renders it a non-renewable, a trend that needs to be reversed. Fuelwood, charcoal production and agriculture contribute to woodland degradation and deforestation. However, the contribution of each varies from one area to another. Rural and urban population growth, unemployment and land tenure are key drivers of woodland degradation and deforestation hence any intervention has to seriously deal with the key drivers for effective and sustainable management of the forest resources. The wider consequences of unsustainable extraction of biomass for energy include deforestation, land degradation, reduction in the ecological services of forests, woodlands and bushes, increased soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, loss of jobs, increased suffering especially for the women as they search for household energy, increased food insecurity as a result of limited biomass for cooking and diversion of household income to purchase woodfuel for energy. Given the high contribution of woody biomass for energy, there is need to emphasize and deliberately invest in wood production specifically for energy and manufacture and marketing of efficient end-use technologies to ensure efficient utilization of the resource. Policy, legal framework and potential interventions: For a long time, lack of appropriate policy, legislation and political will has hindered development of the biomass energy sub-sector. However, in the last seven years, Kenya has formulated an energy policy and legislation, forest legislation and charcoal rules to govern biomass energy development. Other relevant policy and legal provisions are a draft forest policy currently in parliament and a draft environmental policy in its final touches of completion. With policy and legal frameworks in place and the huge effective demand for charcoal and the emerging and growing market for fuelwood especially in the tea industry, commercial growing of wood for charcoal and fuelwood should be exploited. In addition, large scale investment in the manufacture and marketing of energy efficient stoves has promise. There are technologies in the country that can reduce the consumption of biomass energy by almost 80%. They include the improved charcoal stove (KCJ) which can save up to 50%, the improved wood stove that can also save 50% energy, fireless cookers that can save up to 50% and the improved charcoal kilns which can save up to 60% energy when compared to the traditional technologies. Investment in the development and promotion of other biomass technologies like biogas and woody crop residues should be considered. Way forward: To tame the high and increasing level of over 57% biomass energy supply deficit, emerging evidence shows the highest promise to be in extensive commercialization of the biomass energy sub-sector to provide energy for the country, create employment, generate income and provide ecosystem services. The recommended approaches include: a. large scale corporate production of biomass energy in designated regions where land is not a major constraint; b. small scale farmers producing charcoal and fuelwood as cash crops modelled in the line of the tea industry; c. sustainable management of naturally growing woodlands and bush lands guided by approved management plans; d. investing in value addition of the biomass residue that is not suitable for soil fertility improvement; and e. expanded manufacture of energy efficient stoves, kilns and biogas appliances. A strong awareness and catalization programme aggressive cultivation of the necessary political will of the highest office in the land accompanied with development of suitable financial products by the financial institutions are preconditions for the transition. To start implementation of the proposed change, there is need to package the need to change to commercial production of biomass energy in convincing and easily understandable terms. Convincing case studies and models could be used to bring about this change. This should be followed by sensitization of the government of Kenya and the development partners on the need to take the commercial route. The relevant NGOs and CBOs in the sector should also be sensitized and aligned accordingly. The next step will involve development of new commercially oriented long term biomass development programmes, and mobilize sufficient resources for investing in the same. Development of markets should be given sufficient attention since they will act as a pull factor in the whole process. To ensure continuous supply of information for decision making, a biomass energy research centre/programme should be established within the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and funded sufficiently to deliver. In addition, each County should be supported to develop a biomass energy information and planning office to regularly generate vital statistics for planning and investment. Appropriate indicators to measure progress and success should be identified to help track performance of the biomass development programme for poverty alleviation and ecosystem services.