Kitui County Kenya Forest Service, coordinator John Njoroge has said charcoal trade could lead to an economic boom, if well harnessed.
The coordinator said the charcoal industry was a source of livelihood for many Kenyans, as it employed an upward of 70,000 people. The KFS official said dealing in charcoal was good business because the demand for charcoal is higher than its supply. "Eighty per cent of urban dwellers and 34 per cent of rural homesteads in Kenya use charcoal for cooking. The returns are obviously good because the demand is high," he said.
Njoroge said Kitui produced quality charcoal that attracted traders from all over the country because the area had plenty of trees for charcoal production. "In Kitui, we are lucky because we have the Kenya Forestry Research Institute here. The local people can get advice from the Kefri on the trees that can yield large amount of charcoal and of best quality," said Njoroge. "Residents who have trees on their farms can harvest them for charcoal production, but with approval from KFS. They must also ensure that they plant new trees. That does not amount to destruction of forests," said Njoroge.
He said the Mwingi charcoal transporters association had planted more than 20,000 trees as part of environmental conservation efforts. Njoroge asked the police to crack down on people who illegally engaged in charcoal trade.