The Key to Environmental Conservation Is Not in Banning Charcoal Use but Sustainable Production and Use;

Hudson Shiraku's picture

I was recently invited to a workshop where results of a study on factors influencing household adoption of renewable energy technologies in rural Kenya by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND). The study was commissioned with support from KIRDI and the Swedish Embassy in Kenya.

Energy remains at the core of any country’s development and Kenya is no exception. It is the main driving force for all our development process and hence the need to sustainably use the non-renewable energy sources and adopt more renewable sources. The study and this workshop couldn’t have come at a better time.

The study enumerated some of the factors that come into play when a household is deciding on what sustainable energy technology to adopt; Economics, Sociology, Environment, Accessibility and Technology are some of the factors that influence adoption of renewable energy technology.  

Amidst all the discussions, the charcoal burning menace was raised and people were throwing in ideas on how well to tackle the issue. In all these, I was reminded of my drunkard uncle. He used to drink and still educate his son. However, the government of Kenya in its wisdom decided that the best was to reduce drinking in Kenya was to increase taxes and up the beer prices. My uncle had so much love for the beer and with this increase in prices – he had to make a decision or else stop enjoying his tusker. He therefore stopped paying my nephew’s fees to continued financing his drinking hobby. My nephew is now among the many stats of school drop outs. I know many were affected and so the government’s decision was not good at all. Instead of increasing beer price the government could have invested in educating people on responsible drinking.

Drawing from this, banning charcoal production or introducing levies to make it exorbitant will not work in stopping the practice as long as the demand is still there. People will cut costs in other areas to afford charcoal for cooking - which is a necessity. Going forward, it is a fact that charcoal jikos produce the tastiest githeri than gas or electric cooker. We therefore need charcoal and githeri lovers will do anything to get it even if the price is hiked. Our hope for environmental conservation therefore lies in promotion of sustainable production and use of charcoal. Invest in energy saving jikos.