The Sh30 billion charcoal industry will soon be streamlined to ensure that part of its proceeds go to forest conservation efforts. The Kenya Forest Services is pushing for streamlining of the industry through new regulations governing production, transport and use.
"This is a big industry worth Sh30 billion and if only a small percentage of this can go to conservation then it would do a lot," said Kenya Forest Services director, Mr David Mbugua.
The industry also employs thousands in production, transport, and in both wholesale and retail trade. According to Mr Mbugua, the charcoal industry can no longer be ignored due to its huge economic significance.
"Whether we want to or not, we cannot do away with charcoal since about 70 to 80 per cent of Kenyans depend on charcoal and wood as a source of energy," said Mr Mbugua.
Efforts to prohibit charcoal burning have in the past failed mainly due to huge demand, lack of capacity by the relevant authorities and collusion with charcoal burners.
The new drive to regulate the charcoal industry arose from the new Forest Act of 2005 which requires formulation of regulations on the production, transport and use of charcoal.
Once the regulations are in place, the private sector will be able to invest more in development of the industry.
"People will now deal in it as a legal business and they will improve on the technologies used in charcoal burning," said Mr Mbugua. Current charcoal making technologies are obsolete and have not been improved leading to a lot of wastage of wood. Burning 10 tonnes of firewood gives one tonne of charcoal, explained Mr Mbugua.
According to the KFS director, the new rules are at an advanced stage of formulation and will soon be presented to the Forestry and Wildlife minister for gazzettment. The rules outline how a percentage from every charcoal bag will be charged.