Prescribed in the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 and at the center of discussions at the just concluded COP27 is the desire for climate-resilient communities, markets and economies fueling the support for green energy, energy efficiency and nature-based solutions. There is a focus on biodiversity through integrated sustainable land management, forestry, oceans and ecotourism, while creating green jobs. Sustainable utilization of forests, rivers, lakes is considered. At this point waste is value. Sustainable use of agricultural wastes is at the center of energy efficient cooking.
Conservation of forests has socio economic importance. More so, forests lower ozone depletion rates hence moderating the rate of global warming and climate change. Trees absorb greenhouse gases, regulate the water flows, provide fauna stable habitats. Cutting down trees (for whichever reason), exposes biodiversity to effects of climate and, therefore must be moderated at all cost, to reduce severity of droughts and floods, and tame worsening global water crisis.
Kenya’s strides in tree and forest cover
In June 2022, Kenya reportedly surpassed the minimum target of 10 per cent tree cover to achieve 12.13 per cent, also achieved an 8.83 per cent forest cover. Further results generated through the National Forest Resources Assessment 2021, indicate that the country has 7.1 million hectares of tree cover representing the 12.13 percent of the total area and 5.2 million hectares of national forest cover that represents 8.83 per cent of the total area, but forest cover is unevenly distributed across the country. The national target forest cover is 30% by the Year 2050.
Like other countries, Kenya has committed to global reforestation and restoration initiatives. In 2016, through the Bonn Challenge, Kenya announced a significant commitment to restore 5.1 million hectares of land, nearly 9 percent of its total landmass. Action to the commitments and to stop the cycle of recurring droughts, the President called for a billion trees to planted over the next decade – growing five billion trees in five years and an additional 10 billion by 2032.
What causes Kenya’s deforestation?
To achieve these huge commitments, a collaborative effort must be upscaled – but there is a challenge. To provide energy, the production of charcoal and direct use of firewood has significantly contributed to Kenya’s deforestation. Charcoal and firewood are readily available resource and ready to use primary source for cooking fuel. A growing national population raises the demand for charcoal and firewood.
Notably, 85% of Kenyan households use biomass as source of energy for cooking. For an industrial perspective, for instance – tea factories are utilising a lot of firewood to dry the tea. Unfortunately, the process of drying tea aggravates deforestation as the factories are cutting down millions of trees each year to keep up with the demand for production. Estimates show that tea factories use up to approximately 1 million cubic meters of firewood annually, on the flip side, this shows any alternative to charcoal and firewood, definitely has a market. How about direct use of unprocessed agricultural wastes? Does it make business sense?
Based on experience, agricultural waste burns so rapidly, does not fit in the shape and construct of traditional stoves, require retrofitted industrial boilers, direct burning of uncompressed and bulky agricultural wastes remains inefficient and ineffective – loose agricultural waste material has limited energy value per volume, hence uneconomical. Additionally, agricultural waste is costly and cumbersome to handle during collection, transportation, storage. In other words, elites would say – this is costly supply chain. But there could be some value for money, what if, there is an investor who is willing to take the risk of financing such a shambled supply chain to create an alternative energy efficient and high calorie product that will gradually replace charcoal and direct use of firewood by over 35 million Kenyans, industries and institutions?
How KCV is supporting enterprises manufacturing energy alternatives
There is an impact investor already partnering with the private enterprises to scale up manufacturing and distribution of energy efficient high calorie briquettes. Kenya Climate Ventures has invested over KSHS. 35 million to Acacia Innovations, Vuma Biofuels and Kings Biofuels to over 1000 tones per month of briquettes and supply to schools, hotels and industries reducing their biomass energy budget by 30%. While Kings Biofuels is producing briquettes from sawdust (and rice husks), Vuma Biofuels and Acacia Innovations apply sugarcane bagasse – a waste menace at the sugar factories in Western Kenya. Kenyan tea factories are their largest customers and, this is saving the destruction of millions of trees when drying tea in Kenya.
With government tax relief intervention, such initiatives will scale and create more jobs. In the short term, the government should zero rate taxes on briquetting equipment and explore to promote local fabrication of such equipment as long measure to lower the costs of briquettes to compete with charcoal and firewood.
In conclusion, partnership contributes to reduced deforestation, even as Kenyans continue to plant a billion trees every year, the target of 30% forest cover may be reached by 2030, water scarcity will be solved, perennial drought and floods will reduce, reliable rainfed agriculture will be restored and ultimately the country’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions will reduce significantly.